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Environmental engineers receive top science paper award for investigative work

s also earning him Villanova University's Praxis Award in Professional Ethics on April 12.

"Marc Edwards was selected by the Praxis Award Committee because of his exemplary dedication to the ethical ideals of his profession as an engineer," said Mark Doorley, director of Villanova's Ethics Program. "Out of a concern for the public welfare, a central value of the engineering profession, Professor Edwards pursued what he thought was a highly dangerous claim about lead in the water of Washington, D.C.

The Villanova awards committee further stated: "Despite many obstacles, including the risk of speaking out against friends and colleagues, Edwards demonstrated great moral courage in alerting the public to the extent of the deception and dangers at hand. Edwards' subsequent investigation uncovered a variety of unprofessional and unethical practices by the Centers for Disease Control, independent research groups and the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority."

As background, in 2003-2004, while investigating the Washington, D.C. area's water supply, Edwards and his graduate students discovered that the addition of chloramine disinfectant in tap water increased the incidence of lead leaching in residential and commercial aqueducts. Later work linked several cases of lead poisoning, earlier thought to be caused by lead paint, to local tap water, in direct contradiction to sworn testimony by health department officials. The discoveries led to a series of investigative reports in ES&T and Salon by freelance reporter Rebecca Renner.

Concerned with a potential cover-up by the health agencies, Edwards and Triantafyllidou began to collaborate with Dr. Best and Children's National Medical Center (CNMC), who had maintained records on childhood lead poisoning that were independent of the official records maintained by Washington D.C. and the Centers for Disease Control. Their evaluation revealed that the government agencies inexplicably "lost" thousa

Contact: Lynn Nystrom
Virginia Tech

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