The Daily Grist: Feb. 25

Pipe Down
D.C. Issues Warning Over Lead in Residential Pipes

Washington, D.C., health officials will announce today that pregnant women and children under the age of 6 who live in homes in the city with lead service lines should immediately stop drinking unfiltered tap water and have their blood tested for lead. D.C. Water and Sewer Authority officials plan to distribute free water filters to up to 10,000 of the estimated 23,000 homes in their (admittedly incomplete) database of lead service line-fed homes and begin studying the cost of replacing lead pipes on an accelerated basis. They currently estimate that replacing all such pipes within five years would cost each WASA customer an additional $7.75 per month on their water bills. The move marks a dramatic change in public officials' response to studies last summer that found significant lead contamination in roughly two-thirds of tested D.C. homes. "We're advising this to be on the safe side," said D.C. Council Member Carol Schwartz (R). About time, as lead levels well below federal standards have been shown to cause large IQ drops in small children.

Garbage Cans and Garbage Can'ts
Federal Court Rules EPA Incineration Emission Standards Insufficient

Federal standards governing emissions from garbage incinerators are inadequate and must be rewritten by the U.S. EPA, ruled the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., yesterday. The controversy over incineration emissions began in the 1980s, when garbage incinerators became common nationwide. The EPA issued a set of rules regulating these emissions in 1995. Industry attacked the rules, arguing that large and small incinerators should be governed by different standards, and the U.S. Court of Appeals rejected the rules in 1996. In 2000, the EPA issued a new set of rules, which enviro groups then attacked, saying they did not meet Clean Air Act standards and did not prevent dangerous toxins from contaminating the air. Now that the 2000 rules have been rejected by the court, there's confusion about which standards incinerators will now have to meet.

Rotterdam It
Convention on Dangerous Chemicals Goes Into Effect

The Rotterdam Convention, an international treaty meant to protect developing nations from dangerous chemicals already banned or restricted in wealthy nations, went into effect yesterday, after garnering support from 50 signatory countries, as needed to give it the force of international law. Many toxic chemicals, particularly pesticides for agriculture, that have fallen from favor in the developed world are still widely used in poor countries, posing serious health and environmental risks. The treaty attempts to build capacity in those countries to handle the chemicals safely, and states that the chemicals may not be exported by any country unless explicitly authorized by the importing country. The Rotterdam Convention is one of the few international treaties supported by the U.S.

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