Comment here for coffee.
In the mass media age, blogs should help re-anchor politics in reality by relying primarily on personal experience and the reporting of facts.
By way of a profile of Senator Obama, I’m going to write a brief for his efforts to get rid of lead paint in old housing.
for every 10 ug/dL (microgram per deciliter) increase in blood lead levels, there was a lowering of mean IQ in children by 4 to 7 points. (That's less than a thousandth of a gram of lead.) see the Franklin Institute web site for details.
That’s pretty dramatic. A lowering of IQ by 4 to 7 points for every increment!!
Statistics are kept using that basic point of reference – a child is considered to have an “elevated blood level of lead” with 10 ug/dl. In Illinois, the most recent stats suggest that something like 8% of young children are so contaminated. That means about 1 in every 12 kids is mentally impaired, to a measurable degree, by lead in their blood.
What's that Vector?:
I can remember the talk about lead paint when I was young. There was a campaign telling kids not to eat paint chips, and in turn, encouraging parents, landlords and health authorities to deal with flaking old paint. Even as an 8 or 9 year old, this was bewildering to me. It sounded awful, not lead poisoning, but just the idea of eating paint. Were there really a lot of other kids eating flaking paint off their walls? Were they that hungry? That adventuresome? That strange?
My 9 year-old hunch was correct. Kids don’t eat paint that often. The large numbers of kids still becoming contaminated, even as parents, landlords and others aggressively dealt with peeling paint, was evidence that something else was up. The vector was more insidious – dust, abrading from paint when doors closed, windows were raised and lowered, and just in the normal wear of the house. Kids breathed lead dust, ate from plates that carried lead dust, ate vegetables from house-gardens whose soil had dust from exterior lead paint.
The 1978 law meant that any new paint covering the old didn’t contain lead, and the more the lead is covered up, the less lead is abrading into the air. All good. But the underlying lead still does abrade. Thousands of kids each year were still being made substantially dumber because of it.
The Response of a Democratic Congress:
So in 1992, as part of a larger housing bill, Congress passed, and President Bush (that would be the older, wiser Bush.) signed the Residential Lead-Based Paint Reduction Act. One key goal of the bill was to set standards for contractors remodeling older buildings likely to have lead-based paint. Among the important provisions were these:
I got the pamphlet from my realtor (and from the landlord at my old apartment). I didn’t provide one to my tenants. She’s a lawyer – Gulp!!! Fortunately the two of them have no kids, and kids are the primary concern. I’ll get on it. How many of you received a pamphlet from your landlord or your realtor?
(To see the law, go to http://www.thomas.loc.gov/., click on Search Previous Congresses, then search for the title of the law, clicking on 102nd Congress and “Enrolled Bills sent to the President” – which will limit you to the version that actually passed. Unfortunately, searches of this Congressional database expire, so I can’t link you directly to the text.)
The EPA Failure to Act:
The EPA never issued a regulation. I’d love to blame only the Bush administration, but Clinton’s EPA also did nothing. I’ve e-mailed Senator Obama to find out why.
However, the Bush administration made a further retreat from the law, announcing in May, 2005, that it intended to ignore the directive and simply create a voluntary educational program for contractors. The driving force behind this decision, according to an AP article, was Stephen Johnson, then deputy administrator, but later made the head of the EPA.
Senator Obama objected, ultimately putting a ‘hold’ on the President’s nomination of an assistant administrator to get his point across.
If the EPA finally released the regulation, its own studies suggest that the average cost to homeowners would be roughly $116 for interior work and $42 for external work. The benefits would be substantial. However, as so often with these things, the available reporting doesn’t really tell us how those cost figures were arrived at, exactly how the work would be different, and what the benefit would be. Likewise, I’ll be asking Obama for more information on these questions.
Today, I'll launch the Environment Committee monitoring blog with a profile of the Chairman, James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma. As I proceed, I'll profile each member, explaining their priorities and describing their philosophies. I'll try to keep links to these profiles on the front page.
Though the blogosphere is showing great strengths, (for instance the victory of this blog in its crusade for user-friendly, verifiable voting machines in Cook County), we often provide very little new information. Occasionally, some bloggers do offer anecdotes, observations and insider knowledge. But overwhelmingly, bloggers echo and amplify things we've read, heard or seen in other media. We help refocus the attention of the media, and in doing so, I think we provide a great service. But we have yet to become substantial sources of news in our own right.
I unrolled my home delivery paper a couple mornings ago and found that someone had wrapped a bouquet of roses inside:
The New York Times weighs in with an editorial on voting equipment. Since the link may disappear into the Times' pay-per-view archives at some point, I'll excerpt the conclusion: