From this morning’s WaPo:
A House investigative subcommittee concludes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made “scientifically indefensible” claims in 2004 that high lead in the water was not causing noticeable harm to the health of city residents. As terrified District parents demanded explanations for the spike in lead in their water, the CDC hurriedly published its calming analysis, knowing that it relied on incomplete, misleading blood-test results that played down the potential health impact, the investigation found.
The city utility says lead levels have been in the safe range in D.C. water since 2006, after a chemical change to reduce lead leaching. But the House report raises concerns about children in 9,100 residences throughout the city with partial lead-pipe replacements. Their parents may not know CDC research has found that children in such homes are four times as likely to have elevated lead in their blood.
The government had the information and, instead of releasing it, released a misleading report to calm people down. The most damning part comes at the end, from internal CDC emails by the report’s author, Mary Jean Brown:
Brown acknowledged to investigators that she “didn’t have a lot of confidence” in the results but didn’t delay the report’s release because many federal agencies were pushing the CDC to publish.
In internal e-mails at the time, Brown expressed pleasure that the drumbeat of media reports was easing. “Today has been the first day in over a month that there wasn’t a story on lead in water in the Washington Post and also the first that I haven’t been interviewed by at least one news outlet,” Brown wrote to her boss. “I guess that means it worked!”
I am alarmed to discover, through the Post’s map of lead tests, that lead levels on my block came in quite high in 2003, over 250 parts per billion. Am I supposed to be confident that the water I use to make my coffee every morning is safe today?
I understand people’s distrust of corporations, but I’ll never understand their faith in government.