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Location: Washington, DC

RECESS -- (Senate - June 29, 2005)


Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, I speak about the plight of children afflicted by elevated levels of lead in their blood. Although it has been three decades since lead was a component of paint, the effects of lead paint continue to linger in homes across the country. As the lead paint flakes off, the dust is inhaled, and some kids eat the chips.

Lead is a highly toxic substance that can produce a range of health problems in young children, including damage to the kidneys, the brain, and bone marrow. Even low levels of lead in pregnant women, infants, and children can affect cognitive abilities and fetal organ development and lead to behavioral problems.

Over 430,000 children in America have dangerously high blood lead levels. This is a particularly serious problem for Illinois, which has the highest number of lead-poisoned children in the nation. In Chicago alone, 6,000 children have elevated blood lead levels.

In 1992 Congress passed the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act. The law required the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, to promulgate regulations by October 1996 regarding contractors engaged in home renovation and remodeling activities that create lead-based paint hazards. Renovation and repair of older residences is the principal source of lead-paint exposure to U.S. children. According to Federal studies, a large majority of the approximately 20 to 30 million renovations done on older homes each year are done without lead-safe cleanup and contamination practices.

The EPA analysis has found that a lead paint regulation would protect 1.4 million children and prevent 28,000 lead-related illnesses every year. Such a regulation would also lead to a net economic benefit of between $2.7 billion and $4.2 billion each year.

Despite the clear health and economic benefits, these regulations are now 9 years overdue, and there is no sign that EPA is moving any closer to issuing the required rules. Last month, I joined with Senator BOXER and Representatives WAXMAN, LYNCH, and TOWNS to express our concern about EPA's complete disregard of the statutory mandate to issue lead paint regulations.

To address the problem, I have introduced an amendment that would stop EPA from spending money on any actions that are contrary to Congress' 1992 mandate to issue lead paint regulations, including any delaying of the regulations. I thank the managers of this bill, Senator BURNS and Senator DORGAN, for their support of this amendment and for including it in the bill.

I hope EPA will read this amendment and understand that the time for these common-sense lead regulations is long overdue.


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