For those new to this website:
Tamara Rubin is a multiple-federal-award-winning independent advocate for childhood Lead-poisoning prevention and consumer goods safety, and a documentary filmmaker. She is also a mother of Lead-poisoned children (two of her sons were acutely Lead-poisoned in 2005). Since 2009, Tamara has been using XRF technology (a scientific method used by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission) to test consumer goods for toxicants (specifically heavy metals — including Lead, Cadmium, Mercury, Antimony, and Arsenic). Tamara’s work was featured in Consumer Reports Magazine in February 2023 (March 2023 print edition).
October 7, 2023 — Saturday
The text below is the narrative portion of a grant application we submitted tonight (Saturday, 10/7/23) to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).
Lead Safe Mama readers have repeatedly suggested that we submit to this organization for funding of specific Lead Safe Mama, LLC projects. (I did apply for a grant from them once before, quite some time ago [here’s a link to that application narrative, from February 2021] — but didn’t get past the first phase [was not invited to submit additional info]; I don’t expect we will necessarily qualify this round either, but with all of the Lead Safe Mama, LLC successes over the past year, I thought it couldn’t hurt to apply!) We did have a limit of 7,500 characters (including spaces) so needed to use abbreviations and keep it “brief” for that reason.
Here’s the narrative I submitted for the current round, which I should hear back from them about by December 2nd, within 8 weeks:
My name is Tamara Elise Rubin, and I have been doing advocacy and outreach work in one form or another since my children were acutely Lead-poisoned in 2005. I have won two awards from the Federal Government (in 2011, and 2014 — from a consortium of federal agencies including HUD, EPA, CDC, USDA, USDoE, and FDA at the federally-coordinated “National Healthy Homes Conference” each of those years), in acknowledgment of the impact of my innovative/ creative/ “groundbreaking” and “unprecedentedly-effective” methods for directly reaching parents everywhere — from all strata of society, in the U.S., and beyond — with information about the need for Childhood Lead-Poisoning Prevention (including simple and effective actions we can implement, protecting children from exposure to toxicants in their homes, schools, and communities).
Lead Safe Mama, LLC was founded in January of 2018; it is a woman-owned small business for Childhood Lead-poisoning prevention and Consumer Goods Safety. We have the mission, focus, and approach of a 501(c)3 nonprofit, yet we are not. Instead, our work is a unique model — in which we leverage the collaborative efforts of a community with tens of thousands of parents of Lead-poisoned children across the United States (and the globe) to raise awareness, educate, and empower parents and consumers about identifying, recognizing, and eliminating sources of exposure to metallic toxicants in their homes and other environments. We currently have around 2.2 million unique individual readers of our website annually (per Google Analytics).
Our social media following includes:
- 61,000 followers (& 51,000 “likes”) on Facebook
- 27,000+ members in our Facebook Group
- 42,500+ followers on Instagram
- 15,000+ e-mail newsletter subscribers
Our work was written up in Consumer Reports Magazine earlier this year: https://www.consumerreports.org/toxic-chemicals-substances/the-power-of-citizen-science-a1450367401/. As well as featured in The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/wellness/2023/nov/09/how-to-test-vintage-glassware-barware-lead-poisoning.
Since July 2022 alone, Lead Safe Mama, LLC’s work has been responsible for FIVE product recalls (four by the CPSC and one by the FDA) — including for three children’s feeding products, two of which are Lead-contaminated baby bottles (manufactured by NUK and Green Sprouts). In July 2023, we were responsible for the recall of 346,000 Lead-contaminated children’s cups (products sold and advertised as being “Lead-free”).
We have been working diligently to get official CPSC recalls for dozens of Lead-contaminated children’s feeding products since 2017, and have been frustrated with the lack of CPSC response to our reports on Lead-contaminated products. Sharing just one example: We reported seven different NUK brand baby bottle designs that were decorated with high-Lead-content paint — only one of the seven Lead-painted designs was recalled.
In response to the lack of appropriate quick action by the CPSC, we decided to “take it to the streets” (or below the streets, as it were).
Knowing the global impact of “almost anything that happens in New York City,” in the summer of 2023 we raised funds for (then, designed and implemented) a public service campaign/ social consciousness-focused photography exhibit via print advertising in the New York City Subways.
We photographed dozens of toxic (Lead-contaminated) products and created four different PSA panel designs (each 70 by 11 inches). More than 2,100 of them were installed along the edge of the ceiling in the New York City Subways.
There are 6,000 active New York City subway cars running on the rails on any given day in NYC, so this installation represented having a PSA panel (designed to generate consumer awareness about Lead-contamination in common household products, including Lead-painted baby bottles) in more than 1/3 of the NYC Subway cars.
We created this series of four panels, including two panels with photographs of Lead-painted baby bottles for sale today (or sold in the past few years), one panel with images of Lead-contaminated drinkware that children might use, and another panel with images of Lead-contaminated dishes that are unsafe to eat off of yet are commonly found still in use across the United States.
This endeavor (and creating the related materials, including photography, design, implementation, and administration of the PSA campaign, alongside managing the resultant public response) cost us about $113,500 in total ($90,000 of which was contributed by a corporate sponsor and the remainder of which we paid for using income earned from other Lead Safe Mama, LLC programs and contracts).
A benefit of using a printed PSA campaign to create awareness and therefore protecting consumers of all ages, socio-economic, and demographic profiles — basically anyone who rides the subway, plus the friends, family, and community members with whom they share this information — is that while we specifically only paid for a placement of five weeks (June/July 2023), we have been contacted continuously in June, July, August, and September with e-mails, messages, and phone calls from people still seeing these panels in the subways. (The nature of this PSA campaign type is that the Subway marketing agency tends to leave the messages up long after the paid-for period of engagement, extending the impact!)
- We would like to continue this unique program (which is a PSA doubling as an art installation initiative for childhood Lead-poisoning prevention and consumer goods safety) by running a secondary phase of the campaign — with 100% coverage (instead of 1/3 of subway cars having a panel, we would triple the scope of the campaign so all of the currently-operating subway cars would have one of our PSA panels for the continuation of this campaign).
- This would cost us about $340,500 total (triple our spend from the summer), BUT if we have this amount to spend at once, we will likely be able to engage the advertising agency for the subway in giving us additional time for our placement (likely at least two months — and possibly more, if this request were to be approved before the end of the 2023 calendar year).
Here is a link with some of the official photos of the subway campaign from this summer (as well as copies of the final graphics printed for the PSA panels):
Here is an article discussing our intention behind the campaign (the primary goal of which is to get Lead-painted baby bottles off the market):
Here is our “about” page, which includes information about the reach and readership of our work (nationally and worldwide):
Here is our press page, which will be updated shortly but also gives you a sense of the reach and impact of our work: https://tamararubin.com/press/
In response to our NYC Subway PSA campaign this summer at least one company stopped selling their Lead-painted glass baby bottles:
Our coverage of the issue of Lead in glassware in this PSA campaign has also precipitated additional inquiries and coverage of the issue. Here is a YouTube piece for which we were recently interviewed (after the Subway Campaign came out), about Lead-painted glassware:
If you are not able to fund the full 100% coverage plan for a continuation of our NYC Subway PSA campaign, we would welcome any level of support to renew/continue this initiative.
Thank you for your consideration.
Full-time Environmental Activist for Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention and Consumer Goods Safety
Mother of acutely Lead-poisoned children
Mixed Media Artist/ Performance Artist/ Writer/ Photographer/ Documentary Filmmaker