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To End Lead’s Toxic Legacy More Must and Can Be Done

Green & Healthy Homes Initiative’s Statement on the release of the Federal Lead Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures and Associated Health Impacts

Ruth Ann Norton, President and CEO

The release of the joint EPA, HUD, and HHS Federal Lead Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures and Associated Health Impacts raises once again the importance of tackling one of the nation’s most costly and tragic impacts on the health and opportunities for its children. The Report, while comprehensive and helpful, is insufficient in providing specific tools to implement and adequately fund the strategic actions necessary to end the toxic legacy of lead poisoning. As a leader in working to eliminate lead poisoning for over 30 years, the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative appreciates the leadership of the cross-agency collaborative in recognizing the deep and pervasive impact of lead exposure on our nation’s most vulnerable children. The Plan identifies measures to address lead sources. We recognize, however, the reality that strategic recommendations must be paired with the funding, standards and implementation plan to achieve the only cure for lead poisoning – prevention. More concrete timelines of actions in terms of effective regulation, enforcement and defined funding from Congress to scale proven prevention practices in impacted communities are needed to implement the Action Plan’s broad outline. This will take all of us.

The evidence is clear – lead exposure damages the structure and function of a child’s developing brain, stealing the potential for academic achievement, resulting in long-term health and behavioral impacts and preventing that child from reaching their full potential over the course of their life. Lead exposure is entirely preventable, and the outcomes of prevention accrue to the individual, the family and the community. Preventing lead poisoning improves high school graduation rates, increases lifetime earning potential and tax revenue, and decreases public costs related to special education, juvenile justice, and criminal justice.

The release of this plan is another opportunity to build momentum around an array of lead prevention funding tools, which harness the incredible potential for return on this investment – $17 to $221 per $1 spent on lead hazard reduction. We call on the agencies involved in this report to support and advance the strategies set forth in GHHI’s 2016 Strategic Plan to End Childhood Lead Poisoning: A Blueprint for Action and the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s 2017 10 Policies to Prevent and Respond to Lead Exposure, including holding lead pigment and paint companies to account for lead’s legacy, strengthening and enforcing clear, strong standards in housing, drinking water, soil and consumer products, and engaging evidence-based lead poisoning prevention strategies across all federal policies.

In December of 2016, GHHI and 250 partners held the National Lead Summit convened to commit to a bold Call to Action to end lead poisoning through an investment of $12.5 billion over five years to eradicate lead hazards in our most vulnerable communities (National Lead Summit Playbook). GHHI continues to advance the Call to Action to eliminate lead poisoning working locally across the nation on effective prevention initiatives. In January 2019, to spur increased investment in this work, we will release a Lead Poisoning Prevention Toolkit to help cities, states and communities large and small to effectively combat and eradicate this issue.

The federal and bipartisan focus on lead is to be commended and is helpful in advancing the critical agenda of prevention.

That said, we seek concrete commitments and actions:

  • Set out a significant funding plan for a 3 to 5 year period that serves as a true tipping point to advance prevention
  • Advance recommendations to strengthen lead paint and lead dust clearance standards for optimal health protection
  • Ensure that CMS and CHIP continue to work with states to provide health dollars to abate lead hazards that result in harmful and irreversible health effects
  • Move with the evidence to lower the CDC blood lead reference level for lead exposure to 3.5 µg/dL
  • Declare and commit to actions to strengthen the EPA Lead and Copper Rule
  • Ban lead in food products

No doubt, the recent increase of HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes lead grant budget is an important step, but we need to marshal a massive commitment of additional resources to equitably address the lead hazards that continue to disproportionately undermine the health, educational and earning potential of communities of color. We recognize the shared vision outlined in the Federal Lead Action Plan and will continue to work with all partners to put sustainable support in place to end the pervasive, toxic legacy of lead for the next generation of America’s children. It is time to deliver on the promise of ending childhood lead poisoning.

Ruth Ann Norton is the President and CEO of the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative.  She may be contacted at or at 410-534-6477

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