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MRS. GORE, CUOMO AND BROWNER ANNOUNCE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION CAMPAIGN FOR A LEAD-SAFE AMERICA TO PROTECT NATION'S CHILDREN
WASHINGTON -- The Clinton Administration today launched a campaign to protect America's children from the health hazards of lead-based paint with $50 million in aid to localities, a public education program and a new agreement to develop a national enforcement strategy for lead paint disclosure requirements.
The Campaign for a Lead-Safe America -- and its slogan, "Take the Lead Against Lead" -- was announced by Tipper Gore, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner at a White House news conference.
HUD, EPA, state and local governments, and industry, environmental and public health groups will work in partnership in the campaign to protect the nation's children from lead poisoning.
Nearly 5 percent of American children ages 1-5 suffer from lead poisoning -- amounting to almost 1 million children. Among low-income children living in older housing, 16 percent suffer from lead poisoning. For African American children living in older housing, the lead poisoning rate soars to 22 percent.
"If we can keep 1 million children from suffering from lead poisoning by the simple act of removing lead-based paint hazards and educating Americans everywhere, this Administration can continue our progress on behalf of our children's health," said Mrs. Gore, who chairs the Campaign for a Lead-Safe America. "Like all good solutions -- this one is simple. Let's take the lead against lead-based paint."
"America's children need and deserve our protection from lead poisoning," Cuomo said. "Our goal is to eliminate this terrible -- and totally preventable -- environmental hazard so that more children have the opportunity for healthy lives."
"Today's announcement is based on a central philosophy of the Clinton-Gore Administration, that the American people have a right to know about any health hazards in their home and in their communities," Browner said. "Given the tools to make their own decisions, we believe parents will take the right course of action in protecting their children from lead poisoning. The new enforcement strategy and public education campaign will give parents those tools."
High blood levels of lead can cause permanent damage to the nervous system and widespread health problems. Effects include reduced intelligence and attention span, hearing loss, stunted growth, reading and learning problems, and behavior difficulties.
Lead is most hazardous to children under age six, because their still-developing nervous systems are particularly vulnerable. In addition, their normal play activities can expose them to lead-contaminated dust, soil and paint chips.
The $50 million in HUD grants announced today will help private owners of low-income housing built before 1978 (when lead-based paint was outlawed as a health hazard) to remove lead-based paint hazards, which can include lead-contaminated paint, dust and soil.
In addition, the funds can be used for blood testing of young children, inspection and testing of homes for lead hazards, temporary relocation of families during lead control work, community education and outreach, and collection and analysis of data on lead hazards.
The $50 million in grants will go to these 25 state and local governments:
The new public education program unveiled today will feature: public service advertising in publications throughout the nation; videos featuring Sesame Street characters; educational materials distributed by major hardware retailers (Lowe's, Home Depot, Sears and ACE) in over 6,000 stores; distribution of an illustrated book called Maintaining a Lead-Safe Home to 3,500 libraries; distribution of a new interactive video training course for maintenance workers to teach them to do their work safely; and campaigns involving the National Association of Realtors, the Consumer Federation of America and other groups.
In addition, HUD and EPA are jointly funding a toll-free phone line (1-800-424-LEAD) to give callers information about lead hazards and about disclosure requirements for people selling and renting homes. Information is also available on HUD's internet site at www.hud.gov/lea/leahome.html and on EPA's site at www.epa.gov/opptinter
By alerting parents to the dangers of lead-based paint, the education campaign is designed to help parents avoid exposing their children and themselves to lead. The tag line on the public service material is: "Learn before you rent, buy or renovate."
HUD and EPA announced they have entered into a memorandum of understanding that will serve as the basis for a nationwide enforcement strategy to be unveiled in the future that will ensure compliance with a federal "right to know" requirement about lead-based paint. This "right to know" rule requires home sellers and landlords to disclose known lead hazards to prospective homebuyers and tenants, so people can protect their families from exposure to lead.
An estimated 64 million homes and apartment units in the United States built before 1978 are covered by the lead-based paint disclosure rule. About 20 million of these dwellings have lead-based paint in a hazardous condition. About 3.8 million dwellings with lead-based paint are currently occupied by children under age six.
An estimated 9 million new tenants and 3 million homebuyers should receive information under the "right to know" disclosure rule each year.
The rule also requires that sellers and landlords of most housing built before 1978 give buyers and tenants a pamphlet about lead-based paint hazards, and requires that prospective homebuyers be given the opportunity to inspect a home for lead-based paint before signing a sales contract.
Cities with high concentrations of homes with potential lead hazards will be targeted for special attention under a nationwide enforcement and compliance strategy that will be developed by EPA and HUD, including: Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus (OH), Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Jersey City, Los Angeles, New York City, New Orleans, Oakland (CA), Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Providence, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Richmond (VA), Rochester (NY), St. Louis, San Francisco, Savannah (GA), Washington, and Youngstown (OH). HUD will work with health departments in each of these 25 cities to seek their assistance in providing information about lead poisoning cases, to further the compliance strategy.
At their announcement of the Campaign for a Lead-Safe America, Mrs. Gore, Cuomo and Browner were joined by Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke and by Margaret Sauser, who is President of National United Parents Against Lead, founder of United Parents Against Lead of Michigan and the mother of two young sons who have suffered serious health problems from lead poisoning.
"Lead paint poisoning is a major health problem in older American cities," Schmoke said. "Combatting this problem through innovative public-private partnerships must be a national priority."
Jon and Margaret Sauser's sons -- Jonathan, now age 9, and Cameron, age 6, -- suffered lead poisoning after the couple renovated a 67-year-old home they purchased in 1990 in Kalamazoo, MI. The Sausers didn't know that the old layers of paint they removed from the home and garage contained lead, and spread invisible lead dust through the home. They were also unaware that old lead pipes in their home contaminated their water with lead.
The lead poisoning caused Jonathan to experience behavior problems, learning difficulties, insomnia, stomach problems, and other ailments. Cameron, who was born into the lead-contaminated home, experienced slowed growth, difficulties with speech and motor skills, and other problems.
After learning of the lead contamination of their home three years after they moved in, the Sausers moved and declared bankruptcy when they were told they would be unable to sell the contaminated home.
"If only we had known in 1990 what we know now about lead, our sons would never have been poisoned," Mrs. Sauser said. "No parent and no child should have to go through this. By making more parents aware of the dangers of lead, this new federal initiative will benefit children around the nation. Our precious youth must no longer remain our lead detectors. We must find the lead before it finds our children."
Content Archived: January 20, 2009