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Think globally about lead paint

A walk in the rat park

A presidential privilege

Mind-blowing Baltimore

Think globally about lead paint

The excellent article about the work of Pat McLaine and others [Wholly Hopkins: "Lead Paint Studies," November] describes some of the efforts that Boston, the State of Maryland, and other cities/states in the United States are undertaking to correct the problems created by the use of lead in domestic paints prior to 1978. Imagine what even greater and more costly efforts would still be needed if the horrendous practice were still permitted.

Such a situation either exists now or likely will in the future as leaded paints are still being sold for household use in much of the world — including China and India — as we document in our recent publication [Environmental Research 102 (September 2006): 9-12]. The study showed that more than one-half of the paints tested contained lead levels in excess of 10 times the U.S. limit for new paints. Some contained more than 100 times the U.S. limit. More recent data suggest that this situation also occurs in Africa and South America.

Alternatives to the use of lead in paint are obviously available and have been so for many decades. Effective bans on such use are urgently needed and will save many children and adults from the enormous damage that the lead use will cause. Effective bans also will reduce the need for costly lead-hazard reduction programs around the world.

Efforts by public health advocates here and elsewhere are urgently needed to achieve bans on the future use of lead in paints. Since many U.S. paint and coating companies have operations in countries where lead is still used, it would seem that they could encourage their international partners to help prevent this avoidable problem. Public health programs, such as the Bloomberg School of Public Health, with their extensive international involvement, could increase the awareness that this horrible practice persists.

Thanks for helping to give attention to this old but persistent public health problem.

Scott Clark, Engr '63 (MSE), '65 (PhD)
Professor of Environmental Health
University of Cincinnati

A walk in the rat park

Is it really so surprising that a mouse's heart rate drops from 750 to 450 beats per minute when minimal steps are taken to make it more comfortable ["Leading the Way," November]?

Did not the "Rat Park" study's findings (1981) indicate that our laboratory animals respond favorably to a favorable environment? In Bruce Alexander's study of rats [B. Alexander, B. Beyerstein, P. Hadaway, and R.B. Coombs, "Effect of Early and Later Colony Housing on Oral Ingestion of Morphine in Rats," Pharamacology Biochemistry & Behavior 1 (1981): 571-576], the findings were extremely significant. It was shown that when life is good, impediments — like morphine — to living that life are shunned. I would expect a positive physiological affect could be generalized from these results. At the least, it offers a jumping-off point.

You ask: Can we do science better than we do now? Can we prove the hypothesis that humane science really is the best science? I hope so. And I wonder, if more members of the scientific community would relinquish a bit of their proprietary sense, how much more efficaciously we might?

E. K. Tannen, Ed '05
(MS, Counseling)

A presidential privilege

It is not reasonable to suggest that SAIS would be better off not providing its students the opportunity to meet the president of the United States ["Letters," September] and, according to your June 2006 magazine article ["Big Picture"], spend "more than 50 minutes in a 'seminar' of questions and answers that covered the waterfront of SAIS studies." There's not much that tops a private audience with the most influential person in international relations. The fact that one might disagree with the president only makes the opportunity greater for all such SAIS students.

Stuart Foltz, Engr '86

Mind-blowing Baltimore

When I was at Hopkins I remember a good number of students complaining about what Baltimore had to offer ["It Takes a Village — Charles Village — to Make a College Town," November]. What students then and now don't realize is that Baltimore has so much more going on than meets the eye. Do I ever hear anyone mention the Red Room? It's near Charles Village [at Normal's, 425 E. 31st Street]. I saw the most mind-blowing music there week in, week out. There are so many other similarly incredible events and venues that I cringe when I hear people say there's nothing to do in this city.

I think what really trips people up is that the best things that happen in Baltimore happen in the back rooms of obscure shops, raw warehouse spaces, or someone's house. This is real culture. It's raw expression and it's very powerful. This is the Baltimore I love, and I wish more people knew about it and could figure out how to get in touch with it. You just have to keep your eyes open.

Wesley Smith, Engr '02
Santa Barbara, California

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