Durbin To Reintroduce Measure To Combat Lead In Federally Assisted Housing; Discusses Funding In American Jobs Plan To Replace Lead Pipes

Lead Exposure of Any Kind Can Slow Development for Children

SPRINGFIELD – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin today held a news conference to draw attention to several efforts at the federal level to combat lead exposure and contamination in Illinois and across the country. Next week, Durbin will be reintroducing bipartisan legislation to protect children living in federally assisted housing from lead poisoning. Durbin is also pushing for the passage of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, which includes $45 billion to replace 100 percent of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines to ensure every community has access to clean, safe drinking water. This would make a significant impact in Illinois, which has the most lead service lines of any state.

“It is unacceptable that children continue to be at risk from exposure to high levels of lead, which can lead to serious health and neurological problems,” Durbin said. “That’s why I’m reintroducing the Lead Safe Housing Act to ensure we are doing everything we can to update outdated federal public housing standards and provide additional prevention measures. And that’s why I am supporting infrastructure plans that will help cities – large and small – replace dangerous lead service lines. Every person deserves access to safe housing and clean water.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no safe level of lead exposure for children. Lead can slow development and cause learning, behavior, and hearing problems in children, as well as damage the brain and nervous system.

Durbin’s Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act 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 by:

  • Prohibiting the use of visual assessments for low-income housing constructed prior to 1978 (the year the federal government banned the use of lead-based paint in homes) 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.

Durbin is also advocating for robust federal infrastructure investments to support the replacement lead service lines in Illinois and throughout the country. Recent reports indicate that eight in ten Illinoisans live in a community where lead has been found in the drinking water in the last year six years.  Chicago alone has more than 380,000 lead service lines - the most of any city in the country – and Springfield is estimated to have more than 10,000 lead service lines.

Last month, the Senate passed the bipartisan Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021, which would authorize $100 million per year for lead service line removal and a further $40 million per year for lead testing in schools. Additionally, President Biden’s American Jobs Plan aims to eliminate all lead pipes and service lines in the country and calls for an investment of $45 billion in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and in Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act grants.