Public health 'achievement': Accounting fraud in childhood lead poisoning prevention

It’s too bad prosecutors aren’t interested in public health accounting fraud?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today issue its “Ten Great Public Health Achievements — United States, 2001–2010.”

This “achievement” caught my eye:

Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention

In 2000, childhood lead poisoning remained a major environmental public health problem in the United States, affecting children from all geographic areas and social and economic levels. Black children and those living in poverty and in old, poorly maintained housing were disproportionately affected. In 1990, five states had comprehensive lead poisoning prevention laws; by 2010, 23 states had such laws. Enforcement of these statutes as well as federal laws that reduce hazards in the housing with the greatest risks has significantly reduced the prevalence of lead poisoning. Findings of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 1976–1980 to 2003–2008 reveal a steep decline, from 88.2% to 0.9%, in the percentage of children aged 1–5 years with blood lead levels ≥10 µg/dL. The risks for elevated blood lead levels based on socioeconomic status and race also were reduced significantly. The economic benefit of lowering lead levels among children by preventing lead exposure is estimated at $213 billion per year. [Emphasis added and footnote omitted]

Curious, I went to see how the CDC calculated that childhood lead poisoning prevention programs were generating 1.4% of U.S. GDP.

As it turns out, the estimate itself comes from a 2002 study that acknowledges,

The exact shape of the relation between children’s [blood lead levels] and cognitive ability is not known.

Nevertheless, the study moves on to state:

Two published estimates of the overall effect of cognitive ability on earnings are available (6,22). A 1-point difference in IQ was assumed to raise earnings for males and females together by 1.76% by Schwartz, and by 2.37% by Salkever. A third estimate, of 1.66%, derived from the study by Neal and Johnson (23), is essentially the same as the estimate by Schwartz, which we retained as our lower-bound estimate. For our base-case analysis, we used a 2.00% estimate, based on modification of Salkever’s estimate to exclude one of the two participation pathways. For our upper-bound estimate, we used Salkever’s weighted average estimate of 2.37%. [Footnotes omitted].

You can read the Schwartz paper here if you want, but I suggest you take the easy way out an accept the authors’ own description of the 1.76% figure as a mere “assumption” — a generous term that sounds better than “guesswork” or “fabrication.”

It’s truly amazing then how,

“Not known” + “assumption” = “$213 billion per year”

Maybe it’s not so amazing since the $213 billion is as imaginary as its components.

The reality, of course, is that there is no credible evidence that the claimed reductions blood lead levels have produced any IQ or monetary benefits.

On a macro level, in fact, IQ in the US has steadily risen since the early 20th century, regardless of the widespread use and then 1970s phase-out of leaded gasoline.

IQ is a complex, multifactorial phenomenon. There is no evidence that it is driven or significantly impacted by ambient lead exposures.

6 thoughts on “Public health 'achievement': Accounting fraud in childhood lead poisoning prevention”

  1. I am a little older than most readers of this column. A graduate from high school in 1954, I , and my contemporary graduates from Pekin Community High School in Pekin, IL,could read, write, and do mathematics on a level equivalent with those who have two or more years of college today. The majority of the class of 1954 went out and worked instead of going to college.

    Most high school graduates of the past thirty years have gone to college and many are still deficient in reading, writing, and mathermatics. We are now on a path that a four-year college degree is inadequate to work today. Now you have to have a graduate degree to be educated.

    My contemporaries lived with lead-based paint in our houses, air polluted from tetraethyl lead in gasoline, and mercury available everywhere to play with via thermometers and other gadgets. Does anyone remember making 1944 zinc pennies by rubbing a copper penny with mercury in your hands?

    I think there is sufficient data available to prove environmental lead and possibly higher levels of mercury contamination enhanced brain activity.
    The staggering amount of money spent on removing these non-polluting pollutants has furthur burdened society by having to spend unbelievable amounts of money to have our young spend twenty or more years to aquire an education that only took twelve years fifty or more years ago.

  2. I have to agree with Dr. Rust, although I graduated from high school three years later than he did, my experiences were essentially the same. Nothing was more fascinating than those magic little balls of mercury that we were lucky enough to gather up from a broken thermometer.
    We also survived wrenching on cars as teenagers and cleaning up with “leaded” gasoline, riding bicycles with out helmets and the worst thing of all, riding in the back of the pick-up truck in the summertime! We were smarter and stronger than the kids of today.
    When I get e-mails from one of my Grand-sons, who is attending college at one of the University of California campuses on scholarships and grants won by brain power, it’ll start out like this..” hi grampa how r u “… and goes downhill from there, I just go nuts! However, in spite of it all, I’m still a proud “Grampa”!!

  3. I’m a decade behind these guys (graduated HS in 1965). I was still in the leaded gasoline, mercury switch, lead paint and mercury amalgam pennies era. In Eastern North Carolina, we had routine DDT fog sprays for mosquito control. The kids in my neighborhood would run behind the truck in the fog. We had a couple of farms, so I was exposed to a wide range of 60’s pesticides and herbicides. In college research labs benzene was an excellent solvent for recrystallizations. I then worked in the chemical industry, where in-house mortality studies seem to indicate a longer life and lower incident of cancer than the general population.

    All this is largely anecdotal, but the fact remains that my generation is not yet dying like flies or residing in the terminal wards due to all this environmental exposure. I do, however, predict, an increasing lower survival rate for my generation due to multiple birthday syndrome (MBS).

  4. I guess I am the young pup here (class of 74), but we had all that when I was growing up as well. It was during my HS years they introduced unleaded (but we still bought the old stuff for our cars – who could afford a new car?). Seems we managed to make it to adulthood as well. A miracle!

  5. “The ends justify the means.” – any libtard with a ’cause’

    All you have to look for are the Red Flag Words – estimated, about, probably, it is thought, latest opinion, our computer model shows, etc. These words are often buried in the report and do not appear in the executive summary which is all the LSM ever scans for headline fodder.

    The other big “science” scam is the Magic Zeros Effect. Whenever a scary report comes out, do a track back and see if it is a revised study. You’ll find out that the original data is not very disturbing, so they keep adding zeros until everyone runs around with the hair on fire screaming, “We’re all going to die!! (oh yeah, by the way, give me the money)”

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