U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) announced that the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved his amendment to provide $10 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Lead Poisoning Prevention program, an increase of $8 million from last year's levels, as part of the fiscal year (FY) 2013 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill.
"Lead poisoning is a preventable tragedy that dramatically impacts a child's health and ability to learn," said Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee. "I thank my colleagues, particularly Chairman Harkin, for supporting my efforts to begin to restore funding for the CDC's Lead Poisoning Prevention program. This is a smart investment in the health and development of our children and will reduce the costs associated with treating lead poisoning."
In fiscal year 2012, funding for CDC's Lead Poisoning Prevention program was slashed from $29 million to $2 million. This year, the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee proposed $4 million in funding for the program. However, Senator Reed authored an amendment to increase that amount to $10 million, which was adopted unanimously by the full Appropriations Committee.
There are 300,000 homes in Rhode Island with lead-based paint hazards, predominantly housing low-income families with children under six years of age. Children under the age of 6 are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can severely affect mental and physical development. At very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal. The CDC Lead Poisoning Prevention program provides funding and support to states and local health departments, which has helped prevent approximately 100,000 children from being poisoned by lead each year.
In May, CDC lowered the recommended limit of lead exposure in children ages 6 and under from 10 to 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. According to CDC approximately 250,000 children nationwide are categorized as having high lead levels. Estimates indicate that an additional 200,000 children could have unsafe lead levels in their blood as a result of this new standard.
Senator Reed has long worked in Congress to combat lead poisoning and ensure that children are screened for lead before entering kindergarten. Reed created the Urban Lead Hazard Reduction Demonstration Program to fight lead poisoning in communities with the highest rates of lead poisoning in children. Reed increased funding to remove lead based paint from homes, educate families about the dangers of lead poisoning, and train inspectors and workers to identify lead contamination in housing. Since 1998, Senator Reed has helped secure over $40 million for Rhode Island lead poisoning prevention programs.
Reed is also the author of the Healthy Housing Council Act, which would establish an independent interagency Council on Healthy Housing in the executive branch to improve the coordination of existing efforts to educate individuals and families on how to recognize housing-related health hazards and access the necessary services and preventive measures to combat these hazards.
Passing this bill out of the full Appropriations Committee is a critical first step in the appropriations process. The bill must now be approved by the full Senate and then reconciled with a bill expected to be considered by the U.S. House of Representatives next month, before it can be signed into law.