December 15, 2017

Kaine Joins Bipartisan Bill To Protect Children From Lead Exposure

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) is co-sponsoring the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2017, which would require the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to adopt prevention measures and update its lead regulations to protect children from the risk of lead exposure.  Since the enactment of federal lead policies in the 1990’s, lead poisoning rates have fallen dramatically.  However, lead poisoning risk continues to fall disproportionally on minority children that live in federally subsidized housing because of outdated and ineffective federal laws and regulations. 

“This bill will help ensure the Department of Housing and Urban Development is operating by the highest standard to protect children from the risks of lead exposure,” Kaine said. “Children should never have to live in housing where they are endangered by harmful toxins.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls for a public health intervention when a child’s blood level is 5 µg/dL (micrograms of lead per deciliter).  Under previous HUD regulations, however, intervention to reduce lead hazards in a home was not required until the amount of lead in a child was four times as high – 20 µg/dL.  Earlier this year, HUD finalized a rule updating its definition of lead poisoning with the CDC’s definition of elevated blood lead level in children and established more comprehensive testing and evaluation procedures for housing occupied by children poisoned by lead.  While HUD made much needed improvements to its regulatory scheme, the regulations continue to allow children to be exposed to and poisoned by lead before any intervention is triggered.  

The Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2017 would ensure safe, affordable housing by reducing the threat of lead exposure and lead poisoning of children in federally-assisted housing by adopting primary prevention measures to protect children in low-income housing, including:

·         Prohibiting the use of visual assessments for low-income housing constructed prior to 1978 and require the use of risk assessments or a more accurate evaluation tool to identify lead hazards before a family moves into the home;

·         Providing a process for families to relocate on an emergency basis, without penalty or the loss of assistance, if a lead hazard is identified in the home and the landlord fails to control the hazard within 30 days of being notified of the presence of lead; and

·         Requiring landlords to disclose the presence of lead if lead hazards are found in the home.

Kaine and Senator Mark Warner have been leaders in efforts to boost investment in infrastructure repairs to protect against harmful toxins. In September, Kaine and Warner secured federal funding for Virginia Tech through HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard and Healthy Homes Technical Studies to study the performance of household water filters for removing lead from drinking water. Last year, Warner and Kaine pushed for the passage of the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) to authorize $10.6 billion in water infrastructure projects across the nation, including a package of measures to address the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan.