Events coming up during the next two weeks

I’m late getting my calendar up this week. As always, please post a comment or send me an e-mail if you know of a public event worth mentioning here.

Various advocacy organizations continue to hold lobby days at the state capitol as the first “funnel” deadline for legislation approaches. The Department of Natural Resources is holding public meetings around the state this month to discuss air and water quality issues. Also, the sixth annual Iowa Governors Conference on LGBTQ Youth takes place on February 24. Details on those events and more are after the jump.

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I wonder where Rants and Vander Plaats stand on this stimulus spending

Nearly every day I see reports on this or that program in Iowa receiving additional funding thank to the federal economic stimulus bill, passed in February over loud Republican objections. This news caught my eye on Monday. Iowa will receive about $7.5 million out of $100 million appropriated to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control Program:

Polk County will receive $3 million to eliminate lead in 206 housing units; Marshalltown will get nearly $2.6 million to remove lead from 150 housing units; and Sioux City will be awarded nearly $2 million to create 75 lead-safe housing units.

Two potential Republican candidates for governor next year happen to be from Sioux City: businessman Bob Vander Plaats and State Representative Chris Rants. I know some conservatives are clueless about the dangers posed by lead paint, but I wonder if Rants and Vander Plaats can see the benefit of creating lead-safe housing.

Background: lead poisoning can cause mental retardation and behavioral problems, and not only in children. “Exposure to excessive amounts of inorganic lead during the toddler years may produce lasting adverse effects upon brain function.” Decades later, people poisoned by lead can show signs of cognitive deficits and mental illness. People exposed to high levels of lead in the womb and in early childhood have cells missing in key areas of the brain and have been found to be “more likely to be arrested for crimes, especially violent crimes.”

If Republicans claim they support lead remediation but don’t think it belongs in an economic stimulus bill, remember that lead remediation requires human labor and therefore creates jobs. I also would like Republicans to explain where they would find the money for this important work, since Republican politicians want deep spending cuts at the state level as well as a federal spending freeze.

I’m glad to learn that more funding to get lead out of homes was included in the stimulus bill. Reducing children’s exposure to lead has long been a priority for Barack Obama.

The Iowa Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Lead Poisoning Prevention has more background on lead poisoning in Iowa.

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Yet another reason to oppose new coal-fired power plants in Iowa

I thought I was well-informed about the environmental hazards of coal-fired power plants until I read about

a massive flood of toxic coal sludge from a dam that burst at a local coal company’s processing plant in Tennessee yesterday.

The spill covered as many as 400 acres of land with toxic ash as high as six feet deep.

Click the link to see footage of the disaster, and think about sludge containing mercury, arsenic and lead covering hundreds of acres of land and seeping into the water supply.

Matt Stoller called  it an “environmental 9/11 in Tennessee” and noted that waters in eastern Kentucky where a similar spill occurred in October 2000 are still unable to support aquatic life. Years later, people in the area do not drink the tap water.

We do not need to build any new coal-fired power plants. On the contrary, we should aggressively promote clean, renewable energy production and conservation measures to reduce future demand for electricity.

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Lead exposure may affect brain function decades later

The latest research suggests that exposure to lead may diminish the functioning of the aging brain decades later.

The good news is that Americans’ exposure to lead has decreased markedly since lead was removed from paint and gasoline, beginning in the 1970s.

The bad news is that too many children who live in older buildings are still exposed to lead. We already know that lead poisoning can cause mental retardation. Now it appears that even children who appear to be unaffected could suffer adverse consequences from the exposure as they age.

Republicans, remember that next time you feel like mocking a Democratic proposal to test children for lead exposure.  

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