The health and safety of all our children should be valued and protected.
Tell HUD to change their regulations and protect families from lead exposure and poisoning in their homes.
For many of us, our childhood home is where we learn the morals and beliefs that shape our lifelong character. For the fortunate, home is a place where we are protected, nurtured, and guided towards becoming our best selves. Unfortunately for many Americans, especially low-income, Black and Brown families of color with young children, home represents a place rife with the threat of lead exposure. Lead poisoning threatens not only the ongoing health of children and their families, but exacerbates societal ills that degrade the fabric of our nation. The mission of Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is “to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all”. Yet as long as antiquated HUD policies force families in federally funded dwellings to choose between their health and affordable housing, that mission has been, and will continue to be, a failure.
Every step of the way, from failing to identify lead hazards to using outdated standards for testing to inaction once a child is lead poisoned, HUD lead poisoning regulations undermine the safety of families. Insufficient inspection methods, outdated regulatory policies, and poorly implemented support systems are the hallmark of HUD’s current system of lead poisoning prevention in the homes it funds with taxpayer dollars.1 And when federal agencies forego responsibility, so too do state- and local Public Housing Authorities (PHAs). The majority of PHAs do not offer assistance or options that properly address lead exposure until a child’s lead level has reached crippling levels. Lead poisoning disproportionately impacts communities of color, leaving them increasingly vulnerable to housing instability and health risks.2 We cannot ignore the health and safety of these families.
Tell HUD to amend their “Lead Based Paint Poisoning Prevention in Certain Residential Structures.” regulations.
The pernicious effects of lead poisoning do not fall equitably across differences in race, income, or geographic location. Children of low-income, black families residing in urban communities overwhelmingly bear the burden of such lapses in governmental competence.3 Black people comprise 45% of low-income public housing inhabitants, signifying a deep need for social support programs.4 Yet studies indicate 35% of all low-income housing had significant lead-based paint hazards. Of those with hazards, 1.2 million units housed low-income families (less than $30,000 per year) with children under 6 years of age.5 The lack of resources and stringent oversight on lead poisoning prevention policy contributes to growth in risk factors for communities of color. Even as the percentage of white families who lived in homes with a serious lead-based paint hazard decreased between 1999 and 2006, the percentage of black families facing similar hazards increased over the same time period.
Lead poisoning has an extreme moral, intellectual, and financial cost to society. This amounts to $11-53 billion in healthcare costs, $165-233 billion in lost lifetime earnings, $25-35 billion in lost tax revenue, $30-146 million in special education expenses, and $1.7 billion in direct costs of crime.6 The constant danger and enduring effects of lead poisoning act as stress multipliers, further burdening communities which already suffer from disenfranchisement and discrimination.
HUD must update its antiquated policies to ensure that a lead hazard is identified before a child moves into federally assisted housing and align HUD’s rules with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards and prevailing science. The impact of lead poisoning is profound and permanent. It is time that our country commits to protecting all of our children and their futures. To deny this request is to further marginalize low-income and minority communities and ensure the negative health effects of lead poisoning for their children.
Thanks and peace,
Brandi, Rashad, Arisha, Bernard, Brittaney, Evan, and the rest of the ColorOfChange team
1. U.S. Gov’T Accountability Off., RCED-94-137, Lead-Based Paint Poisoning: Children in Section 8 Tenant-Based Housing Are Not Adequately Protected (1994),https://act.colorofchange.org/go/5863?t=6&akid=5502.1942551.oxtqGL. Lanphear, et al., Screening Housing to Prevent Lead Toxicity in Children, 120 Pub. Health Reports 305 (May-June 2005).
2. "Baltimore's Toxic Legacy of Lead Paint." FiveThirtyEight, 05-07-2015. http://act.colorofchange.org/go/5864?t=8&akid=5502.1942551.oxtqGL
3. "It's Not Just Flint: Environmental Racism is Killing Blacks Across America." The Grio, 01-24-2016. http://act.colorofchange.org/go/5865?t=10&akid=5502.1942551.oxtqGL
4. "Who Lives in Federally Funded Housing?" Housing Spotlight, National Low Income Housing Coalition, 11-2012. http://act.colorofchange.org/go/5740?t=12&akid=5502.1942551.oxtqGL
5. "The Prevalence of Lead-Based Paint Hazards in U.S. Housing." EnvironmentalHealth Perspectives, 10-2002. https://act.colorofchange.org/go/5866?t=14&akid=5502.1942551.oxtqGL
6. Gould, supra note 4, at 1164–65; see Deborah W. Denno, Considering Lead Poisoning as a Criminal Defense, 20 Fordham Urb. L.J. 377, 393–94 (1993)
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