Greitens' Health Director Pick Likely Not the Best to Deal with Missouri's Lead Problem

Last week, Gov. Eric Greitens announced his pick to oversee the Department of Health and Senior Services, Dr. Randall Williams. Dr. Williams comes from North Carolina's health department and brings with him a legacy marred by controversy.

From a WBTV news article in 2016:  

“We really didn't feel like the health risk warranted the do not drink recommendations, specifically when you look at their presence in other water supplies,” Dr. Randall Williams, Deputy Secretary of Health Services at NCDHHS.

An analysis of water quality tests reported by public water systems in North Carolina found that claim was false.

State tests found some water wells near Duke coal-powered plants with hexavalent chromium levels as high as 22 parts per billion. The standard that had been used to issue the ‘do not drink’ letters was .07 ppb.

Data collected by the EPA in 2014 shows the average level of hexavalent chromium in public water systems across the state is .15 ppb, more than 100 times less than the levels found in some affected wells.

This department director pick is incredibly disturbing especially when considering Missouri's often ignored lead problems.

Reuters found "nearly 3,000 areas with recently recorded lead poisoning rates at least double those in Flint during the peak of that city’s contamination crisis. And more than 1,100 of these communities had a rate of elevated blood tests at least four times higher."

St. Joseph, Missouri is one of those communities, and is experiencing similar rates of lead poisoning in children as Flint.

St. Joseph, Missouri, is filled with old homes that for a century featured lead paint and plumbing. From 2010 to 2015, more than 15 percent of children tested in seven census tracts here had elevated lead levels – well beyond the Missouri average of 5 percent.

The problem isn't isolated in St. Joseph. Viburnum, Missouri had the sharpest rate of elevated childhood tests in the state, or 30% since 2010. 

It's hard to believe that nominating a person with a history of ignoring a public health crisis, especially after we've seen the impact of this in North Carolina and Michigan, is a good thing.

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