CDC Coverup: Politics often overwhelms reality

Health agency covered up lead harm

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention withheld evidence that contaminated tap water caused lead poisoning in kids.

By Rebecca Renner,

April 10, 2009 | From 2001 to 2004, Washington, D.C., experienced what may have been the worst lead contamination of city water on record. Tens of thousands of homes had sky-high levels of lead at the tap, and in the worst cases, tap water contained enough lead to be classified as hazardous waste. Not that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the government oversight agency for public health, was worried.

A 2004 CDC report found that water contamination “might have contributed a small increase in blood lead levels.” The study has been influential. School officials in New York and Seattle have used the CDC report as justification for not aggressively responding to high levels of lead in their water, and other cities have cited the report to dispel concerns about lead in tap water.

But the results of thousands of blood tests that measured lead contamination in children were missing from the report, potentially skewing the findings and undermining public health. Further, the CDC discovered in 2007 that many young children living in D.C. homes with lead pipes were poisoned by drinking water and suffered ill effects. Parents wondered whether the water could have caused speech and balance problems, difficulty with learning, and hyperactivity. Yet the health agency did not publicize the new findings or alert public health authorities in D.C. or other federal agencies that regulate lead, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or Housing and Urban Development…

The House Science and Technology Committee Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee is beginning an investigation into CDC’s handling of the D.C. lead crisis. Subcommittee chair Brad Miller, D-N.C., wrote the CDC on March 13, requesting all “records that indicate possible, probable or actual forgery, fabrication or other intentional misrepresentation of data,” concerning lead in the water.

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