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Obama Amendment Would Help Prevent Lead Poisoning in Children

Location: Washington, DC

Obama Amendment Would Help Prevent Lead Poisoning in Children
Wednesday, June 29, 2005

WASHINGTON - The Senate approved an amendment by U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) Tuesday to the Interior Appropriations bill that would help speed the creation of regulations to protect our nation's children from dangerous lead-paint poisoning.

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 20-30 million renovations done on older homes each year are done without lead-safe cleanup and contamination practices.

In 1992, Congress required the EPA to write regulations relating to the dispersal of lead paint by contractors during home remodeling by October, 1996. As of June 2005, these regulations still have not been written. Senator Obama's amendment would stop the EPA from spending money on actions that are contrary to Congress' mandate, including delaying the creation of these needed regulations.

"In 1992, we made a promise to our nation's children that we would protect them from dangerous lead-paint poisoning," said Obama. "But sadly, the EPA has dragged its feet on setting common-sense national standards that would prevent an estimated 28,000 lead-related illnesses per year. This legislation is of particular importance to Illinois, which reports the highest number of lead-poisoned children in the nation. Each day that this problem persists is another day that our children's health is compromised."

Over 430,000 children in America have dangerously high levels of lead in their blood.

Jeff Ruch, Executive Director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said Obama's amendment will spur the EPA to create these regulations.

"Senator Obama's action puts EPA on notice that it may no longer delay addressing a tragic but completely avoidable public health threat," Ruch said. "EPA has shirked its commitment to achieve the national goal of eliminating childhood lead poisoning by 2010. We believe that, by this action, Congress spurs EPA to effectively address lead dust created by renovation and remodeling in older housing, as Congress mandated EPA to have completed in 1996. According to EPA's own estimates, 1.4 million children under age 7 residing in some 4.9 million households are at risk of lead exposure due to unsafe repair and renovations. The renovation regulations could be expected to prevent at least 28,000 lead-related illnesses each year, thereby preventing $1.6 billion in medical costs and economic losses annually. EPA also found that the regulations that it is delaying would create an annual net economic benefit of more than $2.7 billion. Intervention by Congress is sorely needed."

Jane Malone, Housing Policy Director of the Alliance for Healthy Homes, said she hoped Obama's legislation will prompt the EPA write these much-needed regulations.

"Childhood lead poisoning is a completely preventable disease," said Malone. "EPA's rule to prevent lead-based paint hazards during renovation and remodeling is long overdue. Within the statute, there are policy alternatives to making every painter in the US get an abatement license. A national ban on unsafe work practices and widespread access to training in working using lead-safe work practices would keep Congress' 13-year-old promise to protect children from being poisoned by lead-based paint hazards created by home renovation and remodeling projects. We hope that this amendment will prompt EPA to actually promulgate this much-needed policy."

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