The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development has set forth initiatives to address the problem of possible lead exposure. It is estimated that these additional regulations will protect millions of children and their families from the dangers of arsenicals.
Housing Lead Safety Amendments
The issue of lead poisoning was catapulted into the national stage with Flint, Michigan and its problem with contaminated water. It became apparent that Flint was not an isolated case as other states highlighted their lead problems as well.
Lead wasn’t only in water systems, but it has been a reoccurring issue in low-income housing under the Department of Housing and Urban development. According to HUD’s policies, the agency could only intervene in cases where lead levels in children under six years old reached 20 micrograms per deciliter. This threshold is four times the one set by the Center for Disease Control, which is five micrograms per deciliter.
In January of 2017, HUD published an amendment to its lead safety initiatives in response to the rising cases of children who have reported to have elevated levels of lead in their blood. A subsequent change puts the threshold at five micrograms per deciliter, which is in line with C.D.C recommendations.
It is estimated that the amendment will cover just under 3 million HUD-assisted developments built before 1978. Almost half a million of these homes have children under the age of six living in them.
Finalizing the Rules
When a child under six is found to have elevated lead levels in his or her blood, the landlord or manager is required to report the case to HUD so that it can launch a proper investigation. If lead is detected in the paint or surrounding areas, the housing provider must clean up the hazard, and a safe living alternative must be provided if necessary.
Under the amended rule, HUD requires building managers to respond within 30 days of receiving a report. HUD will also institute measures of oversight to ensure that managers adhere to the new regulations.
While there are no actual “safe” levels of lead exposure, HUD has finally taken the initiative in ensuring that children are protected. Bringing regulations in line with C.D.C levels, the agency can work in tandem with the federal government to work for the health rights of its citizens.
Lead poisoning is a serious problem as its effects are irreversible – which is why the application of lead in paint was prohibited by 1978. Unfortunately, some homes that were built before then still stand and are in operation. Most of these old dwellings are homes to low-income families who in the past had to live with the problem finding legal recourse. HUD has not underlined individual health, but inadvertently strengthened civil rights of marginalized people.
HUD Addresses Lead Complaints
As a follow up to the announcements about the changes to its lead safety rulings, HUD demonstrated its commitment to dealing with lead in communities by signing a joint agreement with the EPA to address the lead contamination in the East Chicago neighborhood of West Calumet.
This community is where more than a 1000 people had to be evacuated after lead and other poisons were found. West Calumet’s housing projects were built on the site of abandoned industries that left hazardous materials behind.
For decades, the residents had to live with lead exposure. Some speak of moving in when there were visible signs of lead contamination on vacant lots. The issue was only dealt with when the area was added to the Superfund National Priorities List in 1992.
Progress was haggard as the government put the space under a different federal program, which did not carry out proper lead remediation efforts. It took the governing institutions almost 30 years to fix a problem that residents had to live with for nearly a generation.
Advocacy groups welcomed the move by HUD to work with other agencies to address lead exposure, in the hopes that the government won’t be as negligent as before. HUD and its initiatives are positioned to be a sustainable effort.
The new agreement with the EPA allows agencies to be more proactive in testing and cleaning up the lead at public housing complexes and subsidized housing near National Superfund sites. The two agencies will start testing sites and prioritizing the ones that need immediate remediation.