For Immediate Release from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD):
In an effort to immediately help young children with elevated blood lead levels living in federally assisted housing, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is proposing to lower the Department’s threshold of lead in the child’s blood to match the one used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). HUD’s proposed new reference level for lead in a young child’s blood would be lowered from 20 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (µg/dL) to five, and continue to be aligned with CDC recommendations in the future. Read HUD’s proposed rule.
This important change to HUD’s 17-year-old Lead Safe Housing Rule will allow for an earlier response when a child under six years old is exposed to lead-based paint hazards in their HUD-assisted homes. HUD Secretary Julián Castro made the announcement today with Sen. Jack Reed while inspecting a home where HUD helped to clean up the lead paint hazards.
“There is no amount of lead in a child’s blood that can be considered safe,” said HUD Secretary Castro. “We have an obligation to the families we serve to protect their children. By aligning our standard with the one used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we can act more quickly and make certain the homes we support are as safe as possible. This proposed rule is the centerpiece of HUD’s intensified efforts to protect our next generation from debilitating lead poisoning.”
“Lead poisoning prevents kids from reaching their full potential, and it costs the public millions of dollars each year. Secretary Castro has emphasized community engagement, and I am pleased he is here in Rhode Island to meet with local leaders to address this threat and to highlight new tools and initiatives to prevent childhood lead poisoning,” said Senator Reed, a Congressional champion for eliminating lead-based paint hazards and the Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee. “Secretary Castro has been a true leader in advocating for children and families in need and has renewed HUD’s focus on the prevention of childhood lead poisoning. The steps we are announcing today are immediate, cost-effective measures that will change the lives of children living in low-income housing. It is important that we continue to work together, across the housing, education, and public health sectors, to continue to address childhood lead poisoning.”
HUD-assisted housing has fewer lead-based paint hazards than unassisted low- and middle-income homes. Still, some young children living in HUD-assisted properties have blood lead levels higher than CDC’s threshold. By lowering HUD’s reference level to conform to CDC’s, the Department will be able to intervene more quickly to stop the negative impact lead can have on the lives of children.
When a child under the age of six resides in HUD-assisted housing and experiences elevated blood levels, the housing provider would be required to report the case to HUD so the Department can launch an immediate environmental investigation. If it is determined that lead-based paint or lead-contaminated soil is the cause of the child’s exposure, the housing provider must clean up those hazards.
This proposed rule will potentially cover an estimated 2.9 million HUD-assisted housing units built before 1978, the year lead-based paint was banned for residential use. Of these homes, approximately 490,000 are estimated to have children under six residing in them, and 128,000 of those are estimated to contain lead-based paint.
HUD has a long history of working to ensure lead-safe housing, which fits into the broader federal response to address lead hazards found in paint, dust and soil, and other sources like water and consumer goods. For 25 years, HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes has worked to improve methods to identify and address home-related health and safety hazards, including lead. Since 1993, HUD has awarded more than $1.58 billion in grants to communities for identification and control of lead-based paint hazards in over 190,000 low-income privately owned housing units. In addition, HUD continues to support research on best practices for identifying and controlling lead-based paint hazards, and conduct an outreach program to get out the message.
HUD’s key federal partners share an extensive history of work to prevent children’s lead exposure. The CDC’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program has developed programs and policies to prevent childhood lead poisoning and provided funding to state and local health departments to determine the extent of childhood lead poisoning. The Environmental Protection Agency’s lead-based paint program has increased the quality of training of lead inspectors, renovation professionals and abatement firms who work on older homes.
The effects of lead poisoning are irreversible. Even at low levels, lead exposure can have long-term effects on a young child’s ability to learn and lead a productive life. In addition to today’s announcement, HUD recently announced The Lead-Safe Homes, Lead-Free Kids Toolkit, a set of guidelines and recommendations for ensuring HUD housing is lead-safe, and the Healthy Homes App, which provides consumers with information about potentially serious health and safety problems in the home, and the steps they can take to protect themselves.
This proposed rule will be open for public comment for the next 60 days. Interested persons may submit comments electronically at www.regulations.gov. Comments may also be submitted by mail to the Regulations Divisions, Office of General Counsel, Department of Housing and Urban Development, 451 7th Street SW, Room 10276, Washington, DC 20410.
HUD No. 16-129