WASHINGTON - April 5 - Following the release of a report highlighting the health hazards of lead poisoning in children, the Children's Defense Fund (CDF) and the Alliance for Healthy Homes (AFHH) today urged the Bush Administration not to cut the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD's) Lead Hazard Control program. The program prevents childhood lead poisoning by reducing exposure to lead-based paint and the contaminated dust and soil it generates.
The current budget for the program is $174 million, but the Administration wants to slash it by 20% to $139 million next year. With over 400,000 children having levels of lead in their blood high enough to impair their ability to think and learn, CDF and AFHH urged the Administration to work with Congress to increase the budget for HUD's Lead Hazard Control program from $174 to $200 million. The Administration is proposing to cut this key lead poisoning prevention program, even in the midst of well-publicized high levels of lead in Washington, D.C. drinking water.
"Recent news stories have focused on high levels of lead in drinking water, but children are actually more at risk from lead paint poisoning," said Emil Parker, Director of CDF's Health Division. "By far the most common cause of childhood lead poisoning is lead-based paint. Yet, the Bush Administration has made the disturbing decision to actually cut HUD's Lead Hazard Control program by 20% next year. If funding for the program is cut, more children will be left behind due to the effects of lead poisoning, which diminishes the ability to think, concentrate and make progress in school."
As the report discusses, lead, while poisonous to all living things, is particularly dangerous to unborn babies and children under 6 because it disrupts development of the brain and other organs, including the nervous system. Cells in the brain can absorb lead rather than the calcium needed for healthy neurological development. Toddlers are at the highest risk of exposure because their normal play exposes them to lead-contaminated dust and soil. Lead levels as low as 10 micrograms per deciliter are associated with lower intelligence (lower IQs), reduced physical stature, impaired hearing and behavior problems. Lead-poisoned children can be left behind before they even enter school, and often they never catch up. While 10 micrograms/deciliter is the current standard for an elevated blood lead level, adverse effects on IQ have been found in children with levels as low as 5 micrograms per deciliter. In fact, there is no known safe level of lead exposure.
A $26 million increase in the HUD Lead Hazard Control program, from $174 million to $200 million, could result in as many as 15,000-20,000 additional lead-free housing units per year.
Lead Poisoning Prevention Program Funding Report
April 5, 2004 (Adobe PDF : 6 pages : 84 KB)