Durbin Discusses New Initiatives to Address High Rates of Lead Exposure Across the Nation

SPRINGFIELD, IL – As part of a larger effort by Senate Democrats to combat lead contamination, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today highlighted new initiatives to protect children in affordable housing from lead poisoning and update the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) lead and copper regulations to establish mandatory lead testing of pipes and water in cities—large and small—across the country. Earlier this week, Senate Democrats introduced the True LEADership Act, a comprehensive plan that recommits the federal government to investing in water infrastructure and lead remediation across the nation. 

“The contaminated water crisis in Flint, Michigan, was a wakeup call to all of us about how important it is to ensure we have proper protections in place and the necessary resources to address lead contamination. It is a tragic example of what happens when we focus too much on spending cuts and undermine regulations meant to protect families,” Durbin said. “That is why I’ve introduced legislation that represents a comprehensive approach to updating national standards, putting the proper protections in place and allocating the necessary resources to address lead contamination.”


Through loans, grants and tax credits, the True LEADership Act would inject more than $70 billion in the next 10 years into water infrastructure and lead relief programs. Reforms include:


  • Increasing investments in our water infrastructure, particularly through a new grant program specifically designed for projects that reduce lead in tap water
  • Establishing a mandatory, nationwide requirement for states to report elevated levels of lead in children
  • Establishing mandatory testing and notification of lead in water systems
  • Key reforms to HUD authorities and a new tax credit for homeowners to remove lead
  • A new grant program for schools to aid children with the effects of lead poisoning
  • Accelerates development of new water technologies


The package includes two of Senator Durbin’s recent bills:


Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act
Durbin and U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) joined U.S. Representatives Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Mike Quigley (D-IL) in introducing legislation to help combat the tragic lead exposure and poisoning in children in federal low-income housing programs.  The Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2016 would require Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to update its lead regulations to match standards set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and adopt preventive measures to protect children in affordable housing. 


CDC calls for a public health intervention when a child’s blood level is 5 µg/dL (micrograms of lead per deciliter).  Under current HUD regulations, however, intervention to reduce lead hazards in a home is not required until the amount of lead in a child is four times as high – 20 µg/dL.  Lead poisoning left unaddressed by the outdated HUD levels can cause irreversible and long-term health, neurological, and behavioral damage in children.  Children with lead poisoning require ongoing medical treatment and special education services, and studies have demonstrated the profound impact of childhood lead poisoning on outcomes such as school graduation rates.  Durbin’s legislation would bring HUD’s policies in line with the CDC recommendations and the current science on lead exposure.

Since the enactment of federal lead policies in the 1990s, lead poisoning rates have fallen dramatically.  However, lead poisoning risk continues to disproportionally impact minority children that live in federally subsidized housing.  HUD’s outdated and ineffective lead standards and regulations place millions of families with children at risk of lead poisoning because they are no longer consistent with the prevailing science.


Read more about Durbin and Menendez’s legislation here.



Durbin and U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced the Copper and Lead Evaluation, Assessment and Reporting Act of 2016 (CLEAR Act) to better protect the American public from being poisoned by its drinking water supplies. The CLEAR Act directs the EPA to develop new ways to improve the reporting, testing and monitoring of lead and copper levels in America’s drinking water.
By codifying into law the December 2015 recommendations of the National Drinking Water Advisory Council for long-term revisions to EPA standards for lead and copper, the CLEAR Act acts on broadly backed, consensus recommendations for reform.


Read more about Durbin and Cardin’s legislation here.