The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently admitted to the Washington Post that the agency’s 2004 study about lead in the District of Columbia’s water a few years ago contained inaccurate conclusions.
Commentator Yanna Lambrinidou argues that it’s time for the CDC to recall the study, and apologize.
Lambrinidou is president of Parents for Nontoxic Alternatives…
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The CDC's controversial finding contradicted decades of prior scientific evidence that lead in water can cause serious health harm, especially to infants and young children. In 2004, the study convinced D.C. to cancel its planned delivery of water filters to many homes, causing continued exposure of thousands of D.C. residents to contaminated water. And more recently, our city council stripped the District's new lead poisoning prevention bill of all language addressing drinking water as a potential lead source. Public health officials across the country and in Canada touted the CDC study as proof that lead-in-water problems in their own communities were no cause for concern.
In early 2009, however, the CDC's rosy picture began to fade. An award-winning study by Virginia Tech and the Children's National Medical Center demonstrated that hundreds, if not thousands, of our infants and toddlers were lead poisoned from the water. These children are likely to experience permanent brain damage as a result.
Adding insult to injury, just a few weeks ago, Congress revealed that the CDC's "no harm" conclusion was based on an analysis that the CDC knew from the beginning was flawed. Thousands of lead tests were missing, and none of the children who was supposedly unharmed was actually drinking tap water around the time of their blood test. Sadly, the CDC paper was little more than a publicity stunt. It comforted D.C. residents and Congressionresidents and Congressional investigators and prevented scrutiny of agency ineptitude.
This new CDC statement to the Post was the agency's first written admission to D.C. residents that our children were indeed lead poisoned from drinking water. In a twisted sort of way, this was a victory for children here and elsewhere who may be better protected in the future. But the CDC's statement also delivered another slap to D.C. residents because it told untruths and half-truths to present the CDC as an innocent victim, and to justify its stubborn defense of its flawed study, despite calls by Congress, independent scientists, and prominent public health experts for the study's full and immediate retraction.
Here's what you should know: While the CDC now admits that D.C. children were lead poisoned from the water, they are claiming that their study said this all along and that anyone who thought it didn't, simply misunderstood it.
What the CDC hides is that its 2004 study attributed all lead poisonings in D.C. not to water, but to lead paint and dust. There wasn't a single sentence in the study linking lead poisonings to lead at the tap.
Words matter, especially those that state the conclusions of scientific publications. These need to be clear, unambiguous and accurate, but they are not in CDC's 2004 study or the agency's recent corrections.
It is disturbing that the CDC is trying to restore its credibility without taking full responsibility for its past mistakes. We hope that the agency will take further steps to reconnect with its public health mission, retract its deceptive study, offer a sincere apology to D.C., and begin anew to protect the country's children from all common sources of lead, including drinking water.
I'm Yanna Lambrinidou.