Scott, Menendez Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Children From Lead Poisoning

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tim Scott (R-SC), Bob Menendez (D-NJ),  Dick Durbin (D-IL), 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.  

“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.”

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.