Scientists Defend Lead Poisoning Study; Maryland NAACP To Hold Press Conference on IssuesKennedy Krieger Institute and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health officials on Monday defended a 2005 lead poisoning study that recently "has generated unfavorable publicity," the Baltimore Sun reports. For the federally funded study, researchers spread compost made with treated sewage waste on the yards of nine households in East Baltimore. Researchers found that the compost reduced lead levels in soil by about 70%. A similar study was conducted in East St. Louis, Ill.
Researchers said that they chose the yards in Baltimore because the neighborhood is an area with high lead levels, which can pose a health threat to inhabitants. They also said that the compost is safe and widely used and that the study participants were fully informed about the research. Researchers also did not monitor participants' health because there were no known health risks associated with the compost, the Sun reports.
Gary Goldstein, president and CEO of Kennedy Krieger, said, "This was a study about yards and the outcome focused on lead amounts in soil," adding, "It wasn't a story about health."
However, civil rights activists, including representatives from NAACP and the National Black United Fund of Greater Maryland, have said that the study could be viewed as an experiment that negatively affected the health of minorities who lived in the area, the Sun reports. In particular, the groups questioned why the researchers did not give medical evaluations to the people living in the neighborhood where the compost was spread. They also asked why the compost was spread on lawns of households when researchers could have used empty lots if all they were testing was the soil.
The groups have scheduled a news conference for Tuesday to discuss the study's implications. Marvin Cheatham, president of NAACP's Baltimore chapter, said, "We want to get a full accounting of what happened."
A Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing this summer also will examine the Baltimore study. The hearing topic -- federally funded studies where researchers put fertilizers and compost materials into soils -- was planned before the recent media coverage on the study, according to the Sun (O'Brien, Baltimore Sun, 4/22). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.