U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tim Scott (R-SC), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Todd Young (R-IN), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Tina Smith (D-MN) today introduced the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2019, which would require the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to update its lead poisoning prevention measures to reflect modern science and ensure that families and children living in federally-assisted housing are protected from the devastating consequences of lead poisoning.
Lead hazards in a home pose serious health and safety threats. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lead hazards such as dust and chips from deteriorated lead-based paint are the most common source of lead exposure for U.S. children. A 2011 HUD survey found that lead-based paint is in roughly 37 million U.S. homes, 93% of which were built before 1978----the year lead-based paint use in housing was banned in the United States. While the available science for detecting and remediating lead hazards in a home has evolved significantly in the last two decades, federal laws and regulations continue to lag far behind, leaving vulnerable Americans--of whom a disproportionate amount are minorities--at the risk of being exposed lead before any intervention is triggered. Left unaddressed, lead poisoning can cause long-term and irreversible health, neurological, and behavioral problems in children.
"It is unacceptable that children continue to be at risk from lead poisoning, which can lead to serious health problems," Durbin said. "I am reintroducing this bill alongside my colleagues to ensure we are doing everything we can to update outdated federal public housing standards and provide additional prevention measures. There is nothing more important than ensuring the health and safety of our children."
"With buildings dating to the 1920s, South Carolina is home to some of the oldest standing public housing in the country," Scott said. "We owe it to children both in South Carolina and across the country to make certain that proper inspections are taking place in regards to lead paint. My mission is to ensure every child from every zip code in the country has the opportunity to succeed, and I am proud to help reintroduce this bipartisan to help ensure low-income families have access to safe housing that can provide a stable environment for their children's dreams to grow."
"It's incomprehensible that, in 2019, children are still growing up in homes where it's unsafe to breathe the air because of lead contamination," said Menendez. "There is no safe lead level for children, which is why we must do more to strengthen inspection standards and prevent children's exposure to lead hazards in federally-assisted housing. The cost of inaction is far too great for our kids and our communities."
"Protecting our children must always be priority number one," said Young. "All children deserve the opportunity to grow up in homes and communities that are safe from harmful toxins, and this legislation is an important step to ensure the utmost safety in federally assisted housing."
"No parent should have to worry if their home is a safe place for their children, yet in far too many houses across Illinois, children are at risk of lead poisoning," said Duckworth. "Our bipartisan legislation will help address this public health crisis by better identifying lead hazards at home and providing affected families with a safe environment to relocate to."
"Passing legislation to ensure children are protected from lead exposure should be a must-pass priority this Congress," Kaine said. "This bill would mandate rigorous measures to ensure that our children will not be at-risk for lead poisoning and the irreversible health problems that come with it."
"There is no safe level of lead for children, and more than 2,000 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."
"A family should never have to choose between affordable housing and their child's safety," Smith said. "Yet our current housing standards put children at risk for lead poisoning by failing to properly screen for lead in advance, and by punishing families that choose to move out of unsafe housing. We know that any lead exposure is too much for children, and this bill ensures that our housing laws reflect this.
Under HUD's current lead hazard regulations, visual assessments are used to identify the presence of lead in a housing unit. However, while visual assessments--which usually entail identifying chipped and peeling paint--can show signs of lead hazards, modern scientific research has proven that such assessments are profoundly inadequate for identifying the most common sources of lead paint in a home: in intact painted surfaces such as window sashes and windowsills. In order to comprehensively determine the presence of lead and adequately protect children from lead poisoning, HUD's policy must shift from identification and management to primary prevention.
Specifically, the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2019 would ensure that families and children living in federally assisted housing are protected from the devastating consequences of lead poisoning 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 requiring the use of more stringent risk assessments or more accurate evaluation tools that align with prevailing science 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 a 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.