Durbin Presses HUD Secretary to Strengthen Lead Standards to Protect Children

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – After introducing legislation to require the 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), U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today met with the HUD Secretary, Julian Castro, to conduct a thorough review of its regulations of acceptable lead exposure levels for children living in federally subsidized housing.  A call he first made in a January 26, 2016 letter to Castro.


“We have to bring HUD’s outdated lead standards up to date and consistent with the latest science.  Secretary Castro understands that message,” said Durbin.  “Parents everywhere deserve to raise their children in homes that are safe where the potential for lead poisoning isn’t lurking in the water they drink and in the places they play.  In federal housing, we should be doing much more to give them that peace of mind.”


A recent Chicago Tribune article, Federal Housing Policy Leaves Poor Kids at Risk of Lead Poisoning, exposed a critical disparity between the lead-based paint standard for public housing, Section 8, and other federally subsidized housing and levels recommended by the CDC.  The 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, the lead-based paint standard for public housing – Section 8 and other federally subsidized housing – is four times the CDC-recommended level.


Last week, Durbin joined U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and U.S. Representatives Keith Ellison (D-MN), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Dan Kildee (D-MI) and Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) in introducing legislation to protect children in affordable housing from lead poisoning.  The Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2016 would require HUD to adopt prevention measures and update its lead regulations in accordance with the best available science.  The legislation has been endorsed by over 20 organizations.  Read more about Durbin’s legislation in the Chicago Tribune and on his website


Since the enactment of federal lead policies in the 1990’s, lead poisoning rates have fallen dramatically.  However, lead poisoning risk continues to disproportionally impact minority children that live in federally subsidized housing.  Lead poisoning left unaddressed by the outdated HUD levels can cause irreversible and long-term health, neurological, and behavioral damage in children.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.