Following Senator Collins Strong Advocacy, HUD Proposes to Strengthen Blood Lead Threshold to Match the CDC’s Standard

Washington, D.C.—Following the strong advocacy byU.S. Senator Susan Collins, the Chairman of the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittee, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is proposing to lower its acceptable blood lead level to match the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended threshold.  Senator Collins has long advocated for this change, which will allow for an earlier lead abatement response when children living in subsidized housing are exposed to lead-based paint hazards.       

“I am pleased that the Department of Housing and Urban Development has finally proposed to update its blood lead threshold, which will help protect countless children from the harmful, often permanent effects of lead poisoning,” said Senator Collins.  “Despite our efforts to fight this largely preventable health problem, lead poisoning remains one of the most prevalent environmental health problems 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, more stringent 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.

Earlier this year, 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 (FY) 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 reductions in IQ and attention span, reading and learning disabilities, hyperactivity, and behavioral problems, all of which can threaten a child’s ability to achieve his or her full potential. Since the beginning of Senator Collins’ service in the U.S. Senate, she has worked to raise awareness and secure important investments to help protect children and families from this dangerous and too often unseen problem.