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TUESDAY, JUNE 14, 1966
U.S. SENATE, SUBCOMMITTEE ON AIR AND WATER POLLUTION OF THE
COMMITTEE ON Public Works,
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met at 9:30 a.m., pursuant to recess, in room 4200, Senate Office Building, Senator Edmund S. Muskie (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding:
Present: Senators Muskie, Randolph, and Boggs. Senator MUSKIE. The subcommittee will be in order. Our first witness this morning is Mr. Felix E. Wormser, consultant and former president, Lead Industries Association, Inc., New York.
Mr. Wormser, it is nice to welcome you this morning. We appreciate your courtesy in holding your testimony to a reasonable time.
STATEMENT OF FELIX E. WORMSER, CONSULTANT AND FORMER PRESIDENT, LEAD INDUSTRIES ASSOCIATION, INC., NEW YORK, N.Y.
Mr. WORMSER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, my name is Felix Edgar Wormser. I live in Greenwich, Conn. I am a consulting mining engineer with an engineer degree and an honorary doctorate, and I am appearing before you on behalf of the Lead Industries Association.
I helped organize the Lead Industries Association in 1928, became its first secretary, and ultimately its president. I am also a retired vice president of the St. Joseph Lead Co., a former trustee of Columbia University, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and held the office of Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Mineral Resources during President Eisenhower's first term.
Currently, I am chairman of the Engineering Council of Columbia ['niversity. The credentials I bring to this committee are those of a lifetime involvement with lead and lead problems, including those of public health, as well as an association with many distinguished members of the medical profession specializing in scientific research and
Your committee, Mr. Chairman, has already done much to stimulate necessary immediate action and, equally important, continuing research on the problems of safeguarding the air of our cities and countryside. The lead industry's longtime efforts are in accord with your objectives. Our association, and individual companies in our industry, have developed and supported extensive efforts orer the past
several decades to understanding the role and control of lead exposures in both industrial and public environments.
The formation of the Lead Industries Association was unique in that it embraced participants from both producers and consumers, that is, mining companies, smelting and refining companies, and manufacturers of lead-containing products, including lead antiknock compounds. This remains the structure of the association today. A central objective of the association was and is to research lead in all varieties of application and effects and to disseminate to the public the knowledge so gained.
Lead is among the most common metals of the earth's crust and, therefore, occurs naturally nearly everywhere. It is mined commercially in 18 States. The United States alone uses annually about 1,200,000 tons of lead with a value, at today's prices, of $360 million. Lead possesses unique physical qualities which make it an effective metal in important social, public safety, and utilitarian uses. Among these are radiation shielding from the X-ray room to atomic energy installations, insulating buildings against noises and vibrations, providing packaged power in the form of storage batteries, electric and communication cable sheathing, soldering in modern electronic manufacturing, and as an additive to gasoline to give higher performance and greater fuel economy for civilian and military use.
Thus, lead is a highly useful metal in our society. It gives employment to thousands of people, and it provides comfort and security to millions in its many applications. For these reasons, a full understanding of any relationship of lead to the health of people working in lead industries and of the general public is essential. Health and sa fety are matters of paramount importance to us in the lead industry,
As one of the world's oldest known and used metals, the effects of exposure to lead have been studied for years—rightfully and necessarily. Lead, like so many elements in nature, possesses toxic properties. There are few substances, however benign in their general uses, that do not have side effects or toxic effects in some people when misused or abused.
The number of cases of serious illness and death that occur in this country each year from the misuse and overuse of ordinary drugs is a good example. With potentially toxic substances, the answer in terms of public health is twofold: (1) knowledge gained through research into physiological reaction and response; and (2) controls appropriate to the well-being of the populace.
Because of the obvious need to learn everything possible about the manifestation of the toxic properties of lead in its chemical and physical forms from the standpoint of public protection and self-interest, the lead industry in 1925 made a grant to the Harvard Medical School for an exhaustive study of lead's effect on man under the leadership of the renowned Dr. Joseph C. Aub. Absolutely no strings were attached to the grant, and the Harvard Medical School was given complete freedom in making its investigation and in making the results public.
The sole concern of the industry in these studies was the development of scientific and hygienic truth. "Ever since the formation of the Lead Industries Association, the program of medical research has continued
and expanded without any change in the basic broad-gage policy initially enunciated—to seek the truth.
I have with me Dr. Aub's study on lead poisoning, which is a classic in the medical field.
Since 1923 scientists who later formed the staff of Kettering Laboratory of the University of Cincinnati have been engaged in the investigation of various aspects of the occurrence and behavior of lead in the external environment and in the human system. The association has endorsed this work from the outset. In addition, financial and technical support has gone to numerous universities for specialized lead research.
The Lead Industries Association helps finance the Kettering abstracting service, covering articles on lead appearing in the medical and technical publications of the world and distributes these on a quarterly basis. Research projects under the direct auspices of the Lead Industries Association have been relatively few, however, compared with research activities we have stimulated through our seed” projects and encouragement of efforts by others. Major programs have been undertaken by the Federal Government, individual companies in and associated with the lead industry, and by private and public research institutions-in large part, we believe, because of the initiative taken by our association.
There is no doubt in my mind that misdiagnosis and earlier lack of knowledge may have unduly increased public concern about lead. As an officer of the Lead Industries Association, I recall investigating personally, case after case of press reports alleging lead as the cause of damage where lead was not even used or involved. I wish there were time to relate to you some of my adventures in investigating these cases.
Because of my work in this field, I was invited—though my doctorate was not in medicine to address the Seventh Annual Congress on Industrial Health in Boston in 1946. I have with me a copy of my paper entitled "Facts and Fallacies Concerning Exposure to Lead."
My position then, as it is today, is that thorough scientific determination be made before lead is cited as a cause of injury or death.
On the subject of lead intoxication in children, it is appropriate that I mention LA's supported research at the Children's Medical Center in Boston, Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins Medical School, and the University of Cincinnati. This work has vastly deepened our knowledge and provided guidelines for corrective action. The American Standards Association, working with our association, has specified a limit on lead content for interior paints. The manufacturers of children's furniture and toys no longer use lead paints in their products. The action of the paint industry, plus the vigilance of public health officials, has achieved great success.
Much early research in lead, of course, was aimed at guarding the health of those whose work in industry involved high exposure to lead. Through the techniques of the industrial hygienist and sound plant engineering, occupational hazards can now be controlled and avoided. Since the goal of the industrial hygienist is prevention, much research has gone into the determination of permissible levels of occupational exposure to lead. Continuing studies in industry, correlated with controlled exposure research with human subjects, provide the basis for the widely accepted permissible levels and standards
in industry today. These levels and standards are accepted by all State and local governmental agencies having jurisdiction.
Careful research has made it possible to determine safe occupational exposure to lead in the industrial plant air. Furthermore, by measuring the amount of lead in the blood and urine of workers, it is easily possible to avoid exposures that may approach an undesirable level.
From the viewpoint of your Senate subcommittee, however, the current question concerns the general public. Definitive studies over the years have shown that the average person takes in and eliminates tiny quantities of lead in the food he eats, the water he drinks, and air he breathes. These extensive studies have also shown that in the absence of unusual exposure, human output of lead is the same as the intake.
On the average, most of this intake-about 90 percent—comes from food and drink and about 10 percent from the air. It is the latter that is most pertinent to these hearings.
Some lead gets into the air from industrial processing and natural wind disturbances of the earth's surface. Recently attention has been directed toward lead used as a gasoline additive and from which some lead compounds are emitted with auto exhaust.
Here I should mention that lead antiknock compounds do not influence the formation of photochemical smog. This fact was established in a study at Midwest Research Institute and reported in Industrial and Engineering Chemistry in April 1958.
Antiknock compounds perform a most useful function. In removing “knock" they greatly improve the efficiency of fuel, making possible today's high-compression automotive engines. They also conserve a precious natural resource, petroleum, by making gasoline go much further than it would without these additives. Antiknock compounds have been subjected to exhaustive medical research both here and abroad for over 40 years. One of the earliest of these medical research efforts was performed with the participation of the Federal Government, and publication of these early test results was made by the Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service in 1926.
This work involved the examination of groups of workers in the gasoline industry and groups of others who were using the new leaded gasoline, and the Surgeon General's expert committee of doctors and scientists reported that there was no hazard to the public in the use of this new product, but the committee cautiously and properly recommended that the question continue to be studied and watched—and this has been done.
The most recent and most intensive of these studies was reported last year by the U.S. Public Health Service and is known as the "Survey of Lead in the Atmosphere of Three Urban Communities" (PHS Publication No. 999 AP-12). Its findings, based on comprehensive investigations of airborne lead and biological sampling of a total of 2,300 people in Los Angeles, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia, again confirm the fact that lead content of the air is low and does not constitute a public health hazard.
The report further supports and augments the data compiled by the National Air Sampling Network, indicating no increase in lead concentrations in the air of three cities over the last 5 years. In one city, Cincinnati, the trend, in fact, has been downward since the late 1940's,
showing that increased gasoline use does not necessarily result in increased concentration of lead in the air.
Senator MUSKIE. You say that this study or the findings of this study “again confirms the fact that lead content of the air is low and does not constitute a public health hazard."
Dr. Prindle, in his testimony describing the same study, said of this study,
We noted a general trend toward an increase in the concentration of lead in the blood of the various groups of persons as they varied from rural to central urban areas in their places of residence and work.
He followed it up with the statement : We do not look with complacency on the fact that out of 2.300 persons studied, we found 11 who were in danger of ill health from lead exposure.
He followed that by saying: If these data were generalized to the U.S. population, one might expect to find between one-half million to 1 million persons affected as these 11 persons were.
That does not appear to be a finding that the lead content of air does not constitute a public health hazard.
Mr. WoRMSER. Senator, that goes deep into a medical decision and I frankly am not competent to discuss these medical aspects. In fact, I believe Dr. Kehoe made a rather thorough presentation before your committee last week. I would respectfully refer you to Dr. Kehoe to answer any of the medical questions.
Senator MUSKIE. But you made a rather dogmatic statement here, descriptive of the report which was a medical report in part.
Mr. WORMSER, Which report, sir?
I don't gather, and did not gather, from Dr. Prindle's presentation of the results of that finding that that was the conclusion, but you say that it was the conclusion.
Mr. WORMSER. Senator, my feeling is that from the results of this survey showing that the lead content of the atmosphere was, as I recall, 1.4 millionths of a gram to 2 millionths of a gram per cubic meter, and I don't have the report before me so I don't know whether I am quoting too accurately. At any rate, that has impressed me as a layman as being so extremely minute it is extremely difficult to detect in the air. Furthermore, it takes over 2 hours to breathe a cubic meter of air.
Senator Mrskie. But my point is this: Whether or not the content of air is a health hazard is a medical judgment which you say you are not competent to make and yet you do make it at the top of page 7 of your prepared statement.
Mr. WORMSER. I think further on I quote some further medical evidence, Mr. Chairman.
Senator MUSKIE. Do you so read the report of the “Survey of Lead in the Atmosphere of Three Urban Communities"? Do you so read it as to conclude that it finds or confirms the fact that the lead content of air does not constitute a public health hazard?
Mr. WORMSER. I understand that the cases to which you refer, Mr. Chairman, where there was a possibility of lead contamination, were carefully rechecked, and there was no evidence of intoxication.