The Department of Housing and Urban Development wants to protect more children living in federally assisted housing from lead paint exposure.
To that end, HUD is proposing a new rule that would lower the acceptable threshold of lead exposure in a child’s blood to match the standard used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to HUD, making this change to HUD’s 17-year-old Lead Safe Housing Rule will allow HUD to respond faster when a child under six years old is exposed to lead-based paint hazards in their HUD-assisted homes.
“There is no amount of lead in a child’s blood that can be considered safe,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro.
Lead paint was banned for use in homes in 1978, but according to HUD data, there are still nearly 130,000 HUD-assisted homes where a child under six is currently being exposed to lead-based paint.
“We have an obligation to the families we serve to protect their children,” Castro continued. “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.”
According to HUD, the new rule would lower HUD’s reference level for lead in a young child’s blood from 20 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood to five.
“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,” HUD said in a statement.
According to information provided by HUD, federally assisted housing has fewer lead-based paint hazards than unassisted low- and middle-income homes.
But, HUD cautions that some young children living in HUD-assisted properties have blood lead levels higher than CDC’s threshold.
According to HUD, the proposed rule will potentially cover an estimated 2.9 million HUD-assisted housing units built before 1978, which is the year lead-based paint was banned for residential use.
Of those 2.9 million homes, it’s estimated that approximately 490,000 have children under six living in them, and 128,000 of those are estimated to contain lead-based paint, HUD said.
If the rule is approved and enacted, if a child under the age of six residing in HUD-assisted housing experiences elevated blood levels, the housing provider would be required report the case to HUD so the HUD can launch an immediate environmental investigation.
Then, if HUD determines that lead-based paint or lead-contaminated soil is the cause of the child’s exposure, the housing provider must clean up those hazards.
“Lead poisoning prevents kids from reaching their full potential, and it costs the public millions of dollars each year,” said Sen. Jack Reed, D-RI.
Reed, who is the Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee, took part in announcing HUD’s new rule.
“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,” Reed said. “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.”
According to HUD, the proposed rule will be open for public comment for the next 60 days.