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Bill Moyers: Our Media Is Polluted by Toxic Lies About the Risks Posed by Lead

There’s no safe level of exposure to this dangerous toxin still lurking in millions of homes, but that truth is consistently under attack from industry-funded public relations excecutives.

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GERALD MARKOWITZ: And perhaps the most troubling part of the experiment was that we've seen the consent forms and the consent forms do not tell parents that living in these homes may cause their children to be lead poisoned.

And as a result they ended up exposing 100 kids to less than fully abated homes expecting that most of those blood lead levels of those children would go down. And in fact, for most of the children their blood lead levels did go down. But some of the children, their blood lead levels went up.

DAVID ROSNER: What the court says is they were using children as human guinea pigs, as canaries in the mine so to speak, they were using them to measure the effectiveness of each one of their methods of abating lead. You know, this is young women, single mothers by and large with children, young children. And--

GERALD MARKOWITZ: Overwhelmingly African American.

DAVID ROSNER: And this is the, one of the most prestigious medical institutions in the country, Johns Hopkins.

BILL MOYERS: Weren't they trying to figure out how little could be spent to protect children in the short term? And wasn't that the wrong question altogether, don’t we need to solve these problem for the long run?

GERALD MARKOWITZ: Absolutely. And the lead researchers understood that the only way to solve the problem of lead poisoning in children was to get rid of all the lead from the walls. But they didn't think that there would be the political will to do that.

BILL MOYERS: Why don't we have that political will?

GERALD MARKOWITZ: Basically the industry has bought that political system.

DAVID ROSNER: For the past 40 years really we've been living under this set of assumptions about the scarcity in our society, how we can't afford anything and how government can't do anything. Government is the problem, not the answer. That's diametrically opposed to virtually all principles of course of public health which sees government as something that really could do something good. And but we've been taught over and over again that it's too expensive and government is the problem. And therefore we're incapacitated.

BILL MOYERS: With millions, billions of dollars at stake in profits aren't they following a kind of logic of capitalism?

GERALD MARKOWITZ: They absolutely are following the logic of capitalism. But we are all research subjects in a grand experiment where we are being exposed to literally thousands of chemicals that we have no data about. And do we want to know in ten, 20, 30 years that these are going to be either making us gravely ill or killing us?

Do we want our grandchildren to be exposed to this toxic soup of chemicals and only to find out when they're in their 30s and 40s that this is endangering their lives? And there really is a way that we can handle that problem. There is legislation in Congress now, the “Safe Chemicals Act,” which would require the EPA to test all existing and, existing chemicals and the 700 chemicals that are introduced every year and to not allow those that are dangerous to continue.

BILL MOYERS: But Jerry, you know that, as you write in here about the politics of science, that the industry went to Congress in 2005 and got fracking, even before it had come to full blossom, got fracking exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act. And you think, and you have hope for any kind of legislation such as you just described?

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