WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to prevent lead poisoning in the nation’s public and
assisted housing, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) today
called on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to update the
blood lead level standard in public and assisted households with children. The
Senators encouraged HUD to match the agency’s standards for acceptable blood lead
levels with the latest standards advised by public health officials.

In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lowered its blood lead
threshold for children from 10 to 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. This
revised, stronger standard was developed after extensive research showed that even
lower blood lead levels can significantly impact a child’s brain development.
Seventy percent of lead poisonings are a result of dust exposure from lead paint in
the home, and children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of lead poisoning.

To date, HUD has not taken action to adjust the blood lead threshold that it uses
for the purposes of environmental intervention in households with children. In
fact, HUD has not updated its blood lead level standard since 1999, and the current
HUD standard allows for children’s blood lead levels to be three to four times
higher than the CDC standard before action is required to address lead hazards in
public and assisted housing.

“This standard is unacceptably high and results in children living in conditions
that have been scientifically proven to result in lifelong neurological damage. It
forces low-income parents to make an impossible choice between keeping a roof over
their children’s heads and keeping them out of harm’s way. We urge you to expedite
regulatory action on HUD’s standard for environmental intervention and adopt the
blood lead levels currently advised by the CDC,” the Senators wrote in their letter
to HUD Secretary Julián Castro.

Senators Collins and Reed serve as the Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, of
the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban
Development (THUD), which oversees spending for federal housing programs.

“Once a child has been poisoned, the resulting harm to their developing brains can
be severe and lasting, and is often manifested in reduced IQ, behavioral problems,
and learning disabilities. This completely preventable condition traps generations
in poverty and robs children of their opportunity to succeed,” the Senators
continued.

The CDC now estimates 535,000 American children under six years of age are affected
by lead poisoning.

The full text of the letter is as follows:

February 25, 2016

The Honorable Julián Castro

Secretary

Department of Housing and Urban Development

451 Seventh Street, S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20410

Dear Secretary Castro:

As Chairman and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Transportation, and Housing
and Urban Development, we write regarding the urgent need to address the threat of
lead poisoning in our nation’s public and assisted housing. We have long worked to
support critical programs that reduce lead hazards in homes, and we urge you to
update the blood lead level required to compel environmental intervention in
households with children.

In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lowered its blood lead
threshold for children from 10 to 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. This
revised, stronger standard was developed after extensive research showed that even
lower blood lead levels can significantly impact a child’s brain development. In
fact, there is no safe level of lead. As a result, the CDC now estimates that
535,000 American children under six years of age are affected by lead poisoning.

Seventy percent of lead poisonings are a result of dust exposure from lead paint in
the home. As you know, children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of lead
poisoning. Once a child has been poisoned, the resulting harm to their developing
brains can be severe and lasting, and is often manifested in reduced IQ, behavioral
problems, and learning disabilities. This completely preventable condition traps
generations in poverty and robs children of their opportunity to succeed.

HUD has failed to adjust the blood lead threshold that it uses for purposes of
environmental intervention in households with children. In fact, HUD regulations
have not been updated since 1999, allowing for children’s blood lead levels to be
three to four times higher than the CDC standard before action is required to
address lead hazards in public and assisted housing. This standard is unacceptably
high and results in children living in conditions that have been scientifically
proven to result in lifelong neurological damage. It forces low-income parents to
make an impossible choice between keeping a roof over their children’s heads and
keeping them out of harm’s way. We urge you to expedite regulatory action on HUD’s
standard for environmental intervention and adopt the blood lead levels currently
advised by the CDC.

Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter. We have come a long
since lead paint was initially banned in houses decades ago, but there are still
millions of households nationwide with potential lead hazards. As we continue to
work on efforts to prevent lead poisoning, we must ensure that HUD’s regulations
protect those living in public and assisted housing.

Sincerely,

Jack Reed (D-RI)
Susan Collins (R-ME)