Durbin, Scott Introduce Bipartisan Legislation To Protect Children From Lead Poisoning

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) today introduced the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2021, which would require the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to update its lead poisoning prevention measures to reflect modern science and ensure that families and children living in federally-assisted housing are protected from the devastating consequences of lead poisoning.

“Children continue to be at risk from lead poisoning in the very place they call home. We have to do more to address this issue and prevent serious health problems,” Durbin said. “I’m proud to join Senator Scott in this push to update outdated federal housing standards and put additional prevention measures in place.  There is nothing more important than the health and safety of our children.”

“The science is clear – there is simply no safe level of lead exposure for kids. By requiring HUD to update its regulations to protect children from the risk of lead exposure, we can ensure that all families, regardless of their zip code or income level, are able to access safe housing that can provide a healthy environment for their children’s dreams to take root,” said Scott. “I am proud to help reintroduce this bipartisan, common sense legislation to help ensure access to safe, affordable housing for children in South Carolina and across the country.”

Lead hazards in a home pose serious health and safety threats.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lead hazards such as dust and chips from deteriorated lead-based paint are the most common source of lead exposure for U.S. children.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 24 million housing units have significant lead-based paint hazards and about four million of these units are home to young children.  A 2011 HUD survey found that lead-based paint is in roughly 37 million U.S. homes, 93% of which were built before 1978––the year lead-based paint use in housing was banned in the United States.  While the available science for detecting and remediating lead hazards in a home has evolved significantly in the last two decades, federal laws and regulations continue to lag far behind, leaving vulnerable Americans—of whom a disproportionate amount are minorities—at the risk of being exposed lead before any intervention is triggered. Left unaddressed, lead poisoning can cause long-term and irreversible health, neurological, and behavioral problems in children. 

Joining Durbin and Scott in introducing today’s legislation included: U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Rob Portman (R-OH), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Todd Young (R-IN), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Tim Kaine (D-VA).

Under HUD’s current lead hazard regulations, visual assessments are used to identify the presence of lead in a housing unit.  However, while visual assessments—which usually entail identifying chipped and peeling paint—can show signs of lead hazards, modern scientific research has proven that such assessments are profoundly inadequate for identifying the most common sources of lead paint in a home: in intact painted surfaces such as window sashes and windowsills.  In order to comprehensively determine the presence of lead and adequately protect children from lead poisoning, HUD’s policy must shift from identification and management to primary prevention.

Specifically, the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2021 would ensure that families and children living in federally assisted housing are protected from the devastating consequences of lead poisoning by adopting primary prevention measures to protect children in low-income housing, including:

  • Prohibiting the use of visual assessments for low-income housing constructed prior to 1978 and requiring the use of more stringent risk assessments or more accurate evaluation tools that align with prevailing science to identify lead hazards before a family moves into the home;
  • Providing a process for families to relocate on an emergency basis, without penalty or the loss of assistance, if a lead hazard is identified in a home and the landlord fails to control the hazard within 30 days of being notified of the presence of lead; and
  • Requiring landlords to disclose the presence of lead if lead hazards are found in the home.

Today’s legislation is available here.