Congress Revives National Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at U.S. Centers for Disease Control
Appropriates More than $300 Million to Fund Critical Safety and Healthy Housing Programs
COLUMBIA, MD (January 22, 2014) – Last week, Congress restored funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. The bipartisan 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which funds the federal government through September 30, 2014, includes $15 million for the CDC program.
“The six-fold increase in funding for CDC’s lead poisoning prevention efforts is especially remarkable and will benefit millions of children across the country. Much appreciation and gratitude goes to our advocates and allies in the House and Senate,” said Rebecca Morley, executive director of the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH).
Advocates credit the leadership of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Appropriations’ Subcommittee Chairman and Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), as well as appropriations leaders in the U.S. House on both sides of the aisle, who increased investment in the program even under the most difficult budget circumstances.
“This is a smart investment in the health and development of our children and it is crucial that this funding be restored over the long term,” said Senator Jack Reed, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “We have the know-how to prevent lead poisoning, and I am pleased that Congress acted to enable state and local officials to respond to existing and emerging lead poisoning risks in our communities.”
Lead poisoning remains a significant environmental public health threat that affects nearly half a million children annually. The disease, which predominantly stems from lead-based paint exposure in the home, impairs a child’s physical, learning, and behavioral abilities. High blood lead levels are associated with up to a 16% variance in reading and math scores, even when controlling for other factors. Children poisoned by lead are seven times more likely to drop out of school and six times more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), lead is present in over 30 million U.S. homes.
The funding supports CDC’s national surveillance system that tracks where children are exposed to lead—a system credited for uncovering the international scandal of lead in toys manufactured in China in 2007. Historically, the funds have supported state and local health departments to investigate homes, neighborhoods, and property owners that pose the greatest risk of lead poisoning. The funds will also support the state and local health departments to respond to emerging health trends related to lead poisoning.
“The increase of funds to the CDC is wonderful news,” said Brenda Music, a resident of Independence, Iowa. “As a parent of a child who has had lead poisoning, I know firsthand the importance of this funding. This will mean thousands of Iowan children will get the help they deserve. I applaud Senator Harkin for his support and concern for this funding.”
Congress’ previous dramatic cuts to the CDC lead program’s budget from about $29 million to $2 million in 2012 forced the CDC to stop funding to state and local health departments. The decision resulted in the near elimination of the program and massive job loss at the state and local levels, as reported by a 2013 study released by NCHH.
“Home should be one of the safest places for children, and when you discover that your child has lead paint poisoning from your home, it is devastating,” said Betty Cantley, a resident of Grafton, Ohio, whose toddler son was diagnosed with lead paint poisoning as a result of a rental home renovation. “The CDC and public health department’s funding and guidance were critical, helping with testing, clean-up, treatment, and understanding what the diagnosis meant for his future and ours helping him. The best case is to prevent this in the first place.”
NCHH works with national, state, local, and regional partners to pursue the work that is needed to stop lead exposure in homes and from other sources and provide a healthy and safe home environment. Organizations nationwide join NCHH to applaud the funding for CDC’s lead poisoning prevention programs.
“We are relieved that the fight against childhood lead poisoning is back on track with funding for the CDC’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Program,” said Roberta Hazen Aaronson, executive director of Rhode Island’s Childhood Lead Action Project. “As the smallest state, we take pride in having some of the biggest champions of lead poisoning prevention in Congress. Senator Reed played a pivotal role in restoring the much needed funds.”
Additional measures in the 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act deliver $110 million for HUD’s Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control ($15 million of which is for the Healthy Homes Initiative), $174 million for the Weatherization Assistance Program, $8 million for state and tribal assistance grants from the EPA Radon Program, and $24 million for CDC’s Asthma Control Program.
The National Center for Healthy Housing is the preeminent national nonprofit dedicated to creating safe and healthy housing for America’s families. It has trained over 35,000 individuals in lead-safe and healthy housing practices since 2005, and its research provides the scientific basis for major federal policies and programs. NCHH advocates for practical solutions to make homes safe from hazards and to protect low-income families at the highest risk. You can follow NCHH on Twitter @nchh or like NCHH on Facebook. Watch a video about NCHH here.