In recognition for his work to protect children and prevent lead poisoning, U.S. Senator Jack Reed has been awarded the National Child Health Champion Award by the National Center for Healthy Housing and the Rhode Island Childhood Lead Action Project. A member of the Appropriations Committee, Reed was honored for his work to secure federal funding for lead poisoning prevention programs, specifically the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Office of Healthy Housing and Lead Hazard Control and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.
"Senator Reed delivered a miracle for us," said Rebecca Morley, executive director of the National Center for Healthy Housing. "Millions of kids will benefit. We simply couldn't ask for a better and more effective leader in Congress on this issue."
"We are relieved that the fight against childhood lead poisoning is back on track with funding for the CDC's Healthy Homes/Childhood Lead Poisoning Program. We may be the smallest state but we have some of the biggest champions of lead poisoning prevention in Congress with Senator Reed playing a pivotal role in restoring much needed funds," said Roberta Aaronson, executive director of Childhood Lead Action Project.
The primary source of lead exposure is lead-based paint in older houses, while secondary sources include water, food, air, soil, and various household items.
Because lead poisoning involves a variety of health, housing, and environmental issues, Senator Reed has long championed a proactive, coordinated, multi-agency approach. The HUD Office of Healthy Housing and Lead Hazard Control consistently receives $120 million in federal funding for its work each year. The CDC's Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program received $29 million each year, until FY2012 when the funding was slashed to $2 million. Since that time, Reed has been fighting to restore the funding. This year, Reed successfully advocated to restore $15 million in federal money for the CDC program, which was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 passed by Congress in January.
"Lead poisoning is a preventable tragedy that dramatically impacts a child's health and ability to learn. The effects of lead poisoning cannot be reversed, but thanks to the great work of the National Center for Healthy Housing, Childhood Lead Action Project, and other leading advocates, more families are getting screened and more communities are proactively adopting strategies to eliminate lead hazards in the home before children are exposed," said Reed. "We have the know-how to prevent lead poisoning and I am pleased that through a lot of hard work, advocacy, determination, and coordination, we've been able to make some progress."
The CDC's Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program provides funding and support to states and local health departments, and helps prevent approximately 100,000 children from being poisoned by lead each year. Children under the age of six are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can severely affect mental and physical development; at very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal. Nearly 300,000 housing units in Rhode Island have potential lead paint hazards and associated lead-contaminated yards. Of these units, over 90,000 are low income households.
Studies have shown these lead positioning prevention efforts are paying off. This week, the Rhode Island Department of Health announced 1,002 children throughout the state were found to have elevated lead levels in 2013, 225 fewer than the year before. The number of Providence children with elevated blood lead levels in 2013 compared to 2012 declined by 128 cases, from 530 to 402.
Since 1998, Senator Reed has helped secure over $47 million for Rhode Island's lead poisoning prevention initiatives. He also established an annual "National Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention week" in October to help raise awareness about lead poisoning and stress the importance of screening at-risk children.
"I am honored to accept the National Child Health Champion Award today and thank all the men and women who work hard to reduce lead poisoning and protect children. I am pleased we were able to restore funding for these important lead poisoning prevention programs, but our work is not finished," added Reed. "Millions of Americans, including a staggering number of children and families right here in Rhode Island, remain at risk. We must be proactive and continue to invest in the health and development of our children."