Legislation Introduced to Protect Children from Lead Poisoning
Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) along with Tim Scott (R-SC), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Todd Young (R-IN), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) recently introduced the “Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2017” (S. 1854) to protect children living in federally assisted housing from lead poisoning.
The bill would require local housing authorities to conduct more rigorous inspections for lead hazards in private rentals subsidized through the federal Housing Choice Voucher program. The measure would allow families to relocate—without losing their rent voucher—after children are diagnosed with lead poisoning. And it would require housing authorities to crack down on landlords if a child’s blood lead level is 5 micrograms per deciliter, four times lower than the Reagan-era limit currently enforced by HUD.
The legislation would require authorities to intervene when kids are diagnosed with lead poisoning at or above the CDC standard, as well as allowing families to move immediately to safer housing. Before tenants move into a Section 8 unit, agencies would be required to check homes for lead using hand-held testing devices or swabs, rather than relying on visual inspections. Another provision of the bill would require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to update its standards for lead in dust and soil. Federal and state agencies currently are supposed to intervene when lead levels exceed 400 parts per million in areas where children play. Researchers cite studies that suggest the standard should be tightened at least to 100. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.