Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) finalized a long-awaited rule today to protect children living in subsidized housing from harmful lead paint exposure.
The new rule, which went into effect today, will lower HUD’s acceptable blood lead level to match the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommended threshold. This will allow for an earlier lead abatement response when children living in subsidized housing are exposed to lead-based paint hazards. U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the Chairman of the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, has strongly pushed for this change.
“I am pleased that the Department of Housing and Urban Development has updated its blood lead threshold, a change I have long advocated for, which will help protect countless children from the harmful, often permanent effects of lead poisoning,” said Senator Collins. “Since the beginning of my Senate service, I have worked to raise awareness and secure funding to address this largely preventable health problem, which remains one of the most prevalent environmental issues facing children today. We must continue our efforts to eradicate this health threat.”
HUD regulations have not been updated since 1999, and had allowed for the lead in children’s blood to be up to four times higher than the CDC-recommended level before requiring action to address lead hazards in public and assisted housing. The new standard would lower HUD’s threshold of lead in children’s blood from 20 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (µg/dL) to five. The proposed rule will potentially cover 2.9 million HUD-assisted housing units, of which 128,000 are estimated to contain lead-based paint and have children under age six residing in them.
In 2016, Senator Collins and Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) wrote to HUD Secretary Julián Castro, urging him to expedite HUD’s regulatory action to adopt the blood lead levels currently advised by the CDC. In addition, Senator Collins secured language in the fiscal year 2017 THUD Appropriations bill, which was approved by the full Senate by a vote of 89-8, that would have required HUD to lower its threshold to match the CDC’s.
Even relatively low levels of lead exposure can cause reading and learning disabilities, hyperactivity, behavioral problems, and reductions in IQ and attention span, all of which can threaten a child’s ability to achieve his or her full potential. In 1999, during Senator Collins first term in office, she held a field hearing on lead poisoning in Lewiston. Since that time, she has championed increased funding for programs to address lead abatement.