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EPA takes important step to further protect children from exposure to lead-contaminated dust

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Mon, Jun 24th 2019 11:30 am

By the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

On Friday, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler, along with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, announced new, tighter standards for lead in dust on floors and windowsills to protect children from the harmful effects of lead exposure. EPA Region 2 Deputy Regional Administrator Walter Mugdan participated in an event alongside U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Region 2 Director of Community Planning and Development Vincent Hom and City of Newburgh Mayor Torrance Harvey in Newburgh.

“EPA is delivering on our commitment in the Trump administration’s federal lead action plan to take important steps to reduce childhood lead exposure,” Wheeler said. “Today’s final rule is the first time in nearly two decades EPA is issuing a stronger, more protective standard for lead dust in homes and child care facilities across the country.”

“The strengthening and finalization of the dust-lead hazard rule is the successful result of federal agencies working together to protect children from a dangerous, preventable health risk,” Regional Administrator Pete Lopez said. “This rule strengthens EPA’s ongoing efforts to ensure children grow up in homes that are free of lead contamination.”

“EPA’s updating its standards for lead dust on floors and windowsills in pre-1978 homes and child-occupied facilities is an important advance,” Carson said. “We will use this new rule in updating the lead safety requirements for the pre-1978 housing we assist.”

“As a teacher in Newburgh Schools, I place children’s safety as one of my highest priorities. Lead levels in Newburgh’s children are reducing an entire generation’s ability to be the successful scholars we strive for,” Mayor Torrance Harvey said. “The City of Newburgh is committed to working with all of our partners to reduce lead levels and bring properties into full compliance.”

“Eliminating the dangers of lead-based paint in homes continues to be a priority for Secretary Carson, and a rule that demands a higher standard to protect children and prevent the hazards of lead exposure is a step in the right direction,” said Lynne Patton, HUD regional administrator for New York and New Jersey. “Lead poisoning, including lead dust on floors and windowsills, can cause irreparable damage at the most precious stage of life. HUD is honored to join forces with the EPA to ensure that young children are safe from lead poisoning and get a chance to achieve their full potential.”

Since the 1970s, the U.S. has made progress in lowering children’s blood lead levels. In 2001, EPA set standards for lead in dust for floors and windowsills in housing, however, since that time, the best available science has evolved to indicate human health effects at lower blood lead levels than previously analyzed.

To protect children’s health and to continue making progress on this issue, EPA is lowering the dust-lead hazard standards from 40 micrograms of lead per square foot (µg/ft2) to 10 µg/ft2 on floors and from 250 µg/ft2 to 100 µg/ft2 on windowsills. The more protective dust-lead hazard standards will apply to inspections, risk assessments, and abatement activities in pre-1978 housing and certain schools, child care facilities and hospitals across the country.

In Newburgh, approximately five out of every six houses or apartments were constructed before 1960 when lead-based paint was commonly used. The city has calculated, based on national statistics provided by HUD, low- and moderate-income households occupy 3,433 rental units while 979 ownership units contain lead paint.

From 1996-99, Newburgh was one of the top 15 cities in New York state for identified incidences of elevated levels of lead in children’s blood. Of those tested, 10.6% had more than 10 micrograms per deciliter. The 2004-05 surveillance report issued by the New York State Department of Health identified 103 new ≥10 mcg/dL cases in the City and Township of Newburgh – the highest number identified in the state. During 2008, 96 homes were identified as having elevated lead levels indicating a continued source of lead exposure.

Lead-contaminated dust from chipped or peeling lead-based paint is one of the most common causes of elevated blood lead levels in children. Infants and children are especially vulnerable to lead paint exposure, because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. They can be exposed from multiple sources and can cause irreversible and lifelong health effects. Lead dust can be generated when lead-based paint deteriorates or is disturbed.

The rule will become effective 180 days after date of publication in the Federal Register.

Learn more about the lead-based paint program at https://www.epa.gov/lead.

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