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Public Statements

Statements On Introduced Bills And Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, I rise today to reintroduce the Lead Poisoning Reduction Act.

Two weeks ago, the Washington Post featured an article on lead research by the economist Rick Nevin. Mr. Nevin's work demonstrates a strong link between lead exposure and criminal activity in our country. Specifically, he found that national spikes in rates of children with lead poisoning were significantly correlated with spikes in criminal activity two decades later. Notably, this finding was not unique to the U.S., he found a similar association in 9 other countries, despite differences in economics, demographics, and values. Although many readers, myself included, were surprised by Nevin's findings, the scientific community was not, having known for many years that lead poisoning leads to irrevocable, toxic effects on brain development of young children. These effects lead to changes such as impulsivity and impaired cognition, which appear to contribute to criminal behavior in later years.

Mr. Nevin's work underscores the critical importance of eliminating lead poisoning in children, which is completely preventable and has tragic consequences. In the U.S., over 300,000 children have blood lead levels of 10
micrograms or higher, the level traditionally considered to indicate ``lead poisoning''. Yet, even this level is now considered unsafe as newer research has indicated that lead-related damage starts at much lower levels. We must remain vigilant in tackling all sources of lead exposure, to save future generations of children from harm, and the Lead Poisoning Reduction Act will help to do just that.

The major source of lead exposure among U.S. children is lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust found in deteriorating buildings. The Lead Poisoning Reduction Act will provide $42.6 million in grants to communities that wish to develop and implement lead amelioration programs for their childcare facilities. It directs EPA to promulgate regulations within 18 months that require new child-occupied facilities to be certified lead-safe before opening for business. Additionally, EPA would also promulgate regulations within 5 years of enactment to require that all non-home-based childcare facilities be lead-safe. Further, my bill requires EPA to conduct a study of State, tribal and local programs designed to protect children from lead exposure in child-occupied facilities; to establish baseline studies, based on the results of this study; and to create a model program, that can be adapted for use by State, tribal and community officials, for testing, abatement, and communication of risks of lead to children and parents.

Reducing lead hazards in our communities, especially in child-occupied facilities, is critical, with impact reaching beyond individual children in preschools in any given city, to our society as a whole. It is the right thing to do, and the smart thing to do, and it should have been done years ago.

I call on my colleagues to support the Lead Protection Reduction Act, which will help to ensure that every child has access to safe, lead-free childcare facilities in this nation.

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