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October 24, 2012
Impact of new CDC guidelines, federal budget cuts, and Maryland renovation law to be discussed
BALTIMORE, MD, October 24, 2012—This week is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, a time set aside every year to raise awareness about the threat that lead poisoning still poses to our children and our communities. Today at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning (Coalition), joined by local, state and members of Congress, highlighted the progress that has been made to reduce childhood lead poisoning but the work that still needs to be done to eradicate this completely preventable and tragic disease.
Joining Ruth Ann Norton, executive director of the Coalition, were U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings; U.S. Representative John Sarbanes; Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake; and Secretary Joshua M. Sharfstein of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
“Thanks to the hard work and leadership of the local, state and congressional officials represented here today, we have made progress toward our goal of eradicating childhood lead poisoning, but the job is far from over,” said Norton. “There are still children in Maryland and across the U.S. with elevated blood lead levels, causing them to suffer from learning disabilities, hearing loss, behavioral problems and other irreversible physical and mental challenges. We must keep our focus on primary prevention as it is the only way we can ensure that our children and communities are safe from lead hazards.”
Earlier this year, the CDC took important action to lower the threshold for action for elevated blood lead levels from 10 μg/dl to 5 μg/dl, following decades of scientific research that supported the long-held understanding that there is no safe level of lead for a child. Under these new guidelines, there are 3,200 children diagnosed with lead poisoning in Maryland and more than 440,000 nationwide.
“Too many of our children have been affected by childhood lead poisoning – considered the most preventable environmental disease,” Congressman Cummings said. “It is critical that we continue to work to reduce and ultimately eliminate lead exposure in children so that they are able to reach their fullest potential. I commend the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning for their steadfast efforts to shine the spotlight on this important issue and to provide vulnerable communities with the education and resources they need to keep our children safe and healthy.”
“Children growing up in older cities like Baltimore are disproportionately at-risk for lead poisoning and, as a result, the health and developmental complications that come with it,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “The Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning has been a national leader in addressing this critical issue and I commend them for the critical work they are doing.”
In May, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law House Bill 644, making Maryland the only state in the country to enhance the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’) Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule by requiring post-renovation lead dust testing to ensure no toxic levels of lead dust are left behind. In addition to post-renovation lead dust testing, HB644 also requires that the current Maryland Lead Risk Reduction in Housing Law is extended to include all rental properties built before 1978 by the year 2015.
“In the past few decades, we have made significant progress protecting children and families from lead paint and it was not an effort undertaken by City Hall or the State House alone. It’s been collective effort of a very diverse coalition of non-profit agencies, city, state and federal government agencies,” Mayor Rawlings-Blake said. “Working together, we have achieved remarkable public health progress but our work is not finished and the progress shows we can achieve even better results in the years ahead.”
“Maryland is at the forefront of national work to reduce lead poisoning among children," said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Secretary for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. "Yet this prevention week is an ever-present reminder that our work is not done until no child in Maryland suffers from lead exposure."
For information about events the Coalition is hosting throughout the state this week, please visit the organization’s Facebook page. For information and resources about preventing lead poisoning, visit: www.greenandhealthyhomes.org and www.leadfreekids.org.
About the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning™
Founded in 1986 as a response to the twin tragedies of unhealthy housing and unhealthy children, the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning (Coalition) is a national 501(c)3 non-profit organization that creates, implements, and promotes programs and policies to eradicate childhood lead poisoning, reduce asthma episodes and further the creation of green, healthy and lead-safe homes. The Coalition manages local direct services programs that include green and healthy housing interventions, training programs, and relocation, legal, and education services.