To kick off National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (NLPPW), leaders of President Trump’s Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children are raising awareness about the health risks associated with exposure to lead, specifically for children.
Co-chaired by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, along with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson, the Trump Administration is highlighting tools, products, and resources to assist partners at all levels in educating their communities about reducing lead hazards.
EPA today also released “Protecting Children from Lead Exposures” to highlight some of the ongoing programs being worked on across the various program and regional offices. The Agency continues to aggressively address lead issues across America, working with communities and partners to further identify and eliminate lead exposure, especially for children who are most vulnerable to lead poisoning.
“Reducing lead exposure, particularly among children, is a top priority for EPA,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “We are in the process of completing several important actions to combat lead poisoning, such as publishing the new joint federal lead strategy, strengthening the dust-lead hazard standards, and overhauling the lead and copper rule for the first time in over two decades. Today, we are releasing a new document, Protecting Children from Lead Exposures, that will increase public awareness of the EPA programs and grants available to reduce lead exposure.”
“The work of the President’s Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children is a continuation of the Trump Administration’s commitment to preventing future generations from being affected by lead exposure,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “In children, lead exposure can result in serious effects on IQ, attention span, and academic achievement. Fortunately, we have made great progress through working with EPA and HUD on President Trump’s task force, and I look forward to our continued collaboration on combating the threat of lead exposure to children.”
“As a former pediatric neurosurgeon, I’ve seen the negative impact lead exposure can have on a child’s developing brain,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes has been a significant contributor to the ongoing development of a federal strategy to eliminate childhood lead poisoning, ensuring kids have a foundation and a home environment that contributes to their ability to thrive.”
EPA, along with the 17 other partner agencies of the President’s Task Force, is working through the interagency process to finalize the forthcoming Federal Strategy to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures and Associated Health Impacts. The Federal Strategy is designed to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the federal government in reducing children’s lead exposures and lead-related health risks.
NLPPW, which will be held October 21-27, is an annual “call to action” aimed at bringing together families, individuals, community-based organizations, state, tribal, and local governments, and others, to protect current and future generations from exposures to lead-containing paint and dust, contaminated drinking water and soil, among other health risks.
Improving America’s water infrastructure is vital to protecting public health and reducing lead in drinking water. Over the years, EPA has provided states $19 billion through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund program for infrastructure improvements, including lead service line replacement projects throughout the country.
In 2018, the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program prioritized projects that reduce exposure to lead and other contaminants in drinking water systems and update the nation’s aging infrastructure. While the agency recognizes that it will be a multi-year process to bring in applications for lead projects under the WIFIA program, the agency is pleased that in 2017 the Indiana Finance Authority’s loan application included $6 million dollars for two lead service line replacement projects in East Chicago and Crown Point. In 2018, EPA will soon be inviting several entities to apply for WIFIA loans that would invest more than $300 million in lead-related projects. The agency looks forward to investing in more projects that reduce lead in drinking in future years.
Since the 1970s, EPA has made tremendous progress in improving air and water quality and reducing children’s lead exposures and lead-related health risks. Blood lead levels have fallen dramatically in the United States due to the promulgation, implementation, and enforcement of multiple U.S. laws and regulations aimed at reducing lead exposure.
However, there is more work to be done. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that no safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Despite the overall decline of blood lead levels over time, lead exposure remains a significant public health concern for children because of persistent lead hazards in the environment.