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Sen. Clinton addresses Lead Poisoning Crisis

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As part of National Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, Senator Hillary Clinton today introduced legislation to improve coordination among federal, state and local government agencies, update standards for pre-lease or sale inspections required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and establish pilot projects to target areas of high incidence of lead poisoning in children. The Lead Elimination, Abatement, and Poisoning Prevention Act (LEAPP) will put America closer to reaching the goal of eliminating toxic blood levels in young children by 2010.

“We have made enormous strides in reducing exposure to lead since its use was phased out in gasoline and residential paint more than twenty years ago. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are still hundreds of thousands of children under the age of five at risk of lead poisoning. Recent recalls have underscored the dangers of lead hazards in toys and other products marketed to children. I believe we can and must do more to protect children from lead poisoning,” Senator Clinton said.

The LEAPP Act will improve coordination of federal agencies not only around reduction of lead exposures, but overall children’s health protection. It will also provide funding to help carry out innovative inter agency interventions at the local level, so that housing, environmental, and public health experts can work together effectively to protect children from lead poisoning. Furthermore, this bill will take steps to improve lead inspections in older housing units, extend federal regulations to cover more homes, and ensure the abatement of lead-based paint hazards when homes are rehabilitated. The LEAPP Act is supported by the National Center for Healthy Housing and the Children’s Health Forum.

Despite a ban on lead paint in 1978, there are still over 24 million housing units in the United States that have lead paint hazards. With more homes built before 1950 than any other state, the age of New York’s housing stock puts our children at higher risk for contracting lead poisoning in their homes. And, about five percent of children screened for lead poisoning at age two in New York State were found to have elevated blood lead levels, more than twice the national average. Minority and low income children are disproportionately at risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rates of African-American infants with elevated blood lead levels were three times that of white infants.

Earlier this year, Senator Clinton sponsored the Home Lead Safety Tax Credit Act. She also joined with her colleagues to introduce legislation to remove lead from child care facilities and to tighten lead safety standards in children’s toys and electronics. Senator Clinton also called for more stringent efforts from the Consumer Product Safety Agency to protect children from lead hazards recently found in toys and other children ‘s products, and asked President Bush to increase the resources devoted to the agency. Let’s hope that more politicians recognize this lead poisoning epidemic and decide to serve this population of citizens who are not powerful enough to have a lobby or any influence in Washington.

For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Defective and Dangerous Products.