Portman Announces Support for Legislation to Protect Children In Public Housing From Lead Exposure

Portman Announces Support for Legislation to Protect Children In Public Housing From Lead Exposure

Bill Calls for HUD Standards to Be Updated Along With Increased Investment In Prevention

WASHINGTON, D.C. – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) today announced his support for the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act – legislation to protect children in affordable housing from lead poisoning. Lead poisoning disproportionally impacts minority children that live in federally subsidized housing. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) outdated lead standards and regulations place countless families with children at risk of lead poisoning. The Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act would require HUD to adopt prevention measures and update its lead regulations to protect children from the risk of lead exposure. Senator Durbin (D-IL) introduced this legislation earlier this year with the support of Senators Donnelly (D-IN), Duckworth (D-IL), Menendez (D-NJ), Scott (R-SC), and Young (R-IN).

“There is no safe level of lead for children, and more than 2,600 children in Ohio have elevated levels of lead in their blood. That is unacceptable,” said Portman.  “Every child should have the opportunity to reach their God-given potential and that’s why we must bring these outdated HUD lead standards up to date. More than that, we must invest in prevention to ensure every Ohio family is safe. This is a simple, common sense, bipartisan solution to address a key challenge facing low-income communities in Ohio and across the country and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this legislation.”

The Ohio Poverty Law Center also released the following statement:

The Ohio Poverty Law Center and our colleagues would like to thank Senator Portman for his leadership in attempting to put an end to the lead poisoning crisis devastating families across Ohio and throughout the nation. The bipartisan Lead Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2017 strikes at the core of what advocates in Ohio have been saying for years, that we must not wait to address lead poisoning until it has irreversibly harmed a generation of children in our most vulnerable communities. Senator Portman’s decision to stand for this clear moral imperative is the kind of leadership the children of our state deserve. We urge other members of Congress to do the same.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls for a public health intervention when a child’s blood level is five µg/dL (micrograms of lead per deciliter). Under current HUD regulations, however, intervention to reduce lead hazards in a home is not required until the amount of lead in a child is four times as high – 20 µg/dL. Lead poisoning left unaddressed by the outdated HUD levels can cause irreversible and long-term health, neurological, and behavioral damage in children. This legislation would bring HUD’s policies in line with the CDC recommendations.

The Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act would ensure federal lead standards are updated by:

  • Requiring HUD to align the definition of lead poisoning with the CDC’s blood level reference value or the most current CDC lead poisoning prevention definitions and guidance; and
  • Requiring the Environmental Protection Agency and HUD to update the outdated lead-contaminated dust and lead-contaminated soil standards, used to identify lead hazards in homes and the environment.

HUD’s regulations are also ineffective in promoting prevention measures used to identify lead hazards before a child is exposed to lead or poisoned by lead in the home.  Specifically, this legislation would improve primary prevention measures to protect children in low-income housing by:

  • Requiring HUD to issue rules requiring an initial risk assessment for low-income housing constructed prior to 1978 for lead-based hazards prior to a family with a child under 6 years of age moving in and clarify that a visual inspection is insufficient for an initial risk assessment;
  • Removing the lead inspection exemption for a zero-bedroom dwelling unit (studio apartment) that will be occupied by a child under the age of 6; and
  • 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 a child is found to have an elevated blood lead level.
  • Finally, the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act would require the Government Accountability Office to submit a report to Congress on identifying and remediating lead hazards in federally assisted housing and evaluate ways to improve the coordination and leveraging of public and private partnerships to increase prevention interventions to reduce lead exposure among children.

The Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act has been endorsed by Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Urban Justice Center, Children’s Defense Fund, Childhood Lead Action Project, ColorofChange.org, the National Center for Healthy Homes, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, the Cleveland Lead Safe Network, the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing, the Environmental Health Watch, the Health Law Clinic at the Milton A. Kramer Law Clinic Center at Case Western Reserve University Law School, the Northeast Ohio Black Health Coalition, the Ohio Healthy Homes Network, Ohio Poverty Law Center, the Ohio Public Health Association, and the Universal Health Care Action Network of Ohio.

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