Insert:    
Visibility:     Module:   

Blog Posts

Stand Up and Be Counted in the Fight Against Lead Poisoning



Lead poisoning—you know, it seems like we should’ve had this problem licked by now.

Every year, we (NCHH and our partners) get out and stomp the figurative pavement, reminding people—parents, teachers, doctors, members of Congress, the President—that lead is still a very real and dangerous problem. And every year, despite our best efforts, more kids are exposed to lead. This year, we heard of a city (Flint, Michigan) that was exposed to dangerous levels of lead in its water.

All of this despite the fact we’ve known lead was poisonous for over 100 years and despite the fact that lead-based paint was banned in the U.S. back in 1978. That's nearly 40 years ago. The banning of lead-based paint in homes was a major victory, but the war rages on: While no new lead-based paint is being manufactured for residential use here in the United States, lead is still being used in other types of paint. Meanwhile, the lead-based paint that exists in older homes continues to disintegrate into poisonous dust. Lead exposure also comes from aging pipes entering homes and schools, from soil, and in consumer products.

According to Dr. David Jacobs, NCHH's Chief Scientist, "Lead is […] one of the best studied toxic substances that we know of. It’s one of the metals that you don’t need in your body; it has no useful biological value whatsoever. It creates a range of effects [including] neurodevelopmental effects for children at an early age, but it also causes cancer, kidney disease, and many other adverse health effects."

Today, there are still over 500,000 children with elevated blood lead levels in the U.S. Untold numbers of adults—possibly in the millions—struggle daily with the lifelong consequences of their own childhood lead exposure: decreased IQ and cognitive function, developmental delays, and behavioral problems. It’s both unfortunate and unacceptable for any child to be harmed by lead exposure, yet it continues to happen every day, regardless of race, creed, color, or social strata, though children of color and those living in low-income housing have been affected most.

Advocacy groups, philanthropic organizations, and federal, state, and local governments have done much to educate the public about lead hazards—a herculean task. NCHH and its allies in this war on lead poisoning have also made great progress over the last 40-plus years. The studies we and our partners have done, the research we’ve provided, the articles we’ve written, and our advocacy efforts have resulted in a significant reduction in the number of Americans with elevated blood lead levels, as well as medical treatment for those affected. We’re proud of our work, and we’re proud of all the others who’ve joined us in the fight.

Now we need for you to join us as well, and we need you today. NCHH and the National Safe and Healthy Housing Coalition have just created a petition entitled “Tell Congress to End Lead Poisoning Now” that outlines a comprehensive strategy to end lead poisoning within five years.

Take a few minutes to check out the petition. Now we want you to sign it. Yes, YOU. And then we want everyone you know to sign it as well, which means that we need you to share it with people you know and ask them to share it too. Sign it, share it, and change the world—just a little.

Some of you have probably already signed the petition. You read the title and said, “I’m IN!” (Thank you!) Maybe you’re in because someone in your family has been exposed to lead. Maybe there’s lead in your house or apartment right now, and you don’t have the money you need to make your home safe once and for all. Or maybe you know someone down the street, one street over, or someone who goes to school with your kids, who’s been touched in some way by lead poisoning. Maybe you know someone who’s sitting in jail, and you think that maybe his or her life would be completely different right now if only they hadn’t been exposed to lead.

But maybe you haven’t gotten around to signing the petition just yet. We know that some of you are thinking, I don’t know anyone with this problem or This isn’t really a problem for me. But it really is. Whether or not we realize it, we’re all affected by lead poisoning:
  • Because families move into older homes every day.
  • Because children attend older schools every day.
  • Because some kid visits his or her grandparents’ home every day.
  • Because water flows through old pipes every single day.
  • And because lead poisoning can lead to learning disabilities, impulse control issues, and violent behavior, we pay tax money to fund educational services, law enforcement efforts and the judicial system to fix lead-related problems after they’ve happened. 
We want to tell Congress to invest more in the system upfront so that problems don’t happen. It’s a sound investment in our collective future: The return on investment for lead poisoning prevention is estimated at no less than $17 for every $1 spent.

As NCHH’s David Jacobs and Amanda Reddy commented in a recent editorial, lead poisoning is preventable, and we know how to prevent it; but our investment has to be more widespread and sustained.

Help us tell Congress that it is time to end childhood lead poisoning. Won’t you help us to reach our goal of 20,000 signatures? Stand up and be counted: Please sign the petition right away and share it with your friends, associates, and family.

Four Proposals to Make Homes Healthier through Better Model Codes: ICC Member Vote by May 26

Building a home that lasts generations, withstands the elements, is energy efficient, and keeps us safe all at a reasonable cost is a marvel in engineering, design, and management. Renovations are even more complicated as we adapt the latest designs into homes built decades ago.

With thousands of contractors working on millions of homes every year, we rely on our local building code officials to ensure the work is done properly. We may not like it when they take too long to issue a permit for our kitchen remodeling or stop work when the contractor is cutting corners, but without their oversight, most homeowners have no way of knowing whether they got what they paid for from the contractor.

Many state and local code officials rely on model codes from the International Code Council (ICC) when they issue permits. These model codes often incorporate by reference regulations by federal agencies, but only when the code officials vote to support proposals in a three-year consensus process cycle led by ICC. Contractors have to comply with both the code and the federal regulations, but code officials only consider the model code as adapted to their community.

In April, in the first step of the most recent ICC consensus process, committees considered and did not approve four proposals that will make our homes healthier and safer. All ICC members now have until May 26 to vote for healthier homes. Then the proposals will be open for public comments and potential revisions before a final vote by the voting government official members of ICC in October. The following are the proposals and their ICC-assigned official number.


A. ADM78-16: Ensuring that only EPA- or state-certified contractors disturb lead-based paint [pdf of proposal]

To obtain a permit to renovate housing and child care centers, contractors must submit extensive documentation so the code official can verify the work will comply with the code and be conducted properly. NCHH and others proposed requiring that those documents include the EPA- or state-issued lead-safe renovation firm certificate when disturbing paint in multifamily housing and childcare facilities built before 1978.

Since 2010, contractors have been required to be certified in order to conduct this work in order to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) Rule. There are minor exemptions for zero-bedroom apartments, housing only for the elderly, or when very small amounts of paint are being disturbed. Contractors become "lead-safe certified" when they promise to follow the rule, use trained people to supervise the work, and pay a fee.

NCHH and others crafted the proposal to protect children from dangerous but invisible lead-contaminated dust too easily left behind when contractors don’t use lead-safe work practices. These work practices were designed to prevent generating dust, enable easier cleanup in case dust is made, and check the work to ensure it was done properly. The National Association of Remodeling Industries (NARI) supported the proposal because it levels the playing field so that uncertified contractors do not undercut those who are certified and committed to following the rules.

EPA representatives testified at the hearing and strongly supported the proposal. They cited successes in similar approaches in the state of Minnesota and in the cities of Milwaukee, WI; Rochester, NY; and Oakland, CA. When the Minnesota legislature mandated the requirement, EPA saw a 40% increase in certifications for renovators – a sign of success. They made clear that the code official would only have to ensure the contractor has a valid certificate, not verify that the work was done properly – that's EPA’s job.

This proposal only affects multifamily housing and child-occupied facilities. A matching proposal for single-family homes and for townhouses is not up for a vote in May but will be in October.


B. RB361-16: Ensuring that homeowners choosing radon-resistant features in new home construction get a system that functions properly [pdf of proposal]

When a homeowner wants a home built to prevent radon from coming into the home from the ground, they demand “radon-resistant new construction.” It costs about $1,200 and helps to protect residents from the second leading cause of lung cancer. But it only works if it is installed properly.

The American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists (AARST) proposed a change to the International Residential Code (IRC) to provide that a code official has a basis to inspect the work to ensure the system functions as designed.


C. RB152-16: Allowing below-grade foam insulation to be free of brominated flame retardants
[pdf of proposal]

The current IRC requires that foam insulation contain flame retardants even if the foam is sandwiched between the concrete foundation and the ground outside. The chemicals serve no purpose in this situation. Providing architects, builders, and homeowners with the option for foam insulation free from flame retardants is important given the serious health questions that have been raised about some of these chemicals, especially brominated flame retardants.

A coalition led by the Green Science Policy Institute proposed giving architects, builders, and homeowners the ability to choose flame-retardant-free foam insulation for below-grade uses. Mandating the use of chemicals that serve no purpose and may create a health risk is contrary to the ICC’s purpose of protection health, safety, and general welfare.


D. PM7-16: Requiring carbon monoxide alarms in all homes with combustion sources or an attached garage [pdf of proposal]

The International Fire Code (IFC) and the IRC require a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm in all homes with combustion sources, such as a fireplace or gas-fired appliance, or with an attached garage. These alarms protect residents from brain damage or death when combusting appliances fail or when air from a garage with an idling car is pulled into the home. More than 300 people die each year from CO poisoning.

As of 2011, 49 million homes – 46% of owner-occupied and 33% of renters – had CO alarms. NCHH proposed adding the CO alarm requirement to the International Property Maintenance Code to better ensure the likelihood of a home receiving one since the homes the code inspector visits are the ones most neglected and most likely to have a malfunctioning gas-fired appliance.

The objective of the model codes is to protect public health, safety, and welfare. Each of these proposals are narrowly crafted to accomplish that objective with minimal burden on the code official, the contractor, and the owner. Each deserves approval by the ICC and provides a common approach for states and local jurisdictions to consider when they adapt the model code to the needs of their community.

Disqus Comments

Archive

Archive by Years
Tags
Categories