Where a child grows up should never dictate where that child ends up.
During his time as Mayor of San Antonio and then as Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), this has been one of Secretary Castro’s animating values and lies at the core of much of his work in public service.
It’s a simple promise. A child’s potential should never be limited by where they were born or where they grew up.
This is why the lead crises we have witnessed in communities like Flint, Michigan have been particularly shocking to our national conscience. Lead poisoning is linked to irreversible health problems and developmental challenges that follow a child into adulthood. That means a child’s future potential is being limited before they turn six years old, by the water they drink, the soil they play in, and the dust in the air they breathe.
The plan below aims to eliminate lead poisoning as a major public health threat. It involves executive and congressional action, working with state and local authorities, and collaborating with private entities.
In short, everyone counts. Every child in every neighborhood should have the gift of their full abilities. Let’s make it happen.
Significantly increase resources to identify and remediate lead hazards:
- Convene a Presidential Taskforce on Lead in Communities, charged with eliminating lead poisoning as a major public health threat and coordinating the inter-agency response in partnership with state and local governments.
- Work with Congress to direct $5 billion a year for ten years to remediate lead in paint and soil and replace lead pipes in areas of highest need. This work would target communities with the highest need following a national assessment of lead poisoning and risk factors in the United States, and enable other infrastructure and development grants to be used for lead abatement as appropriate.
- Work with Congress to pass the Home Lead Safety Tax Credit Act to support lead remediation in buildings in the United States.
- Increase funding of the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at the Centers for Disease Control by $100 million a year to implement interventions, public education, and partnerships with state and local governments.
- Mandate lead risk-assessments and testing for homes and buildings constructed before 1978 prior to any sale of that property and require disclosure of the property’s lead status during sales or transfers.
- Remediate lead risks in all government-owned buildings, including public housing and in public schools after a complete assessment.
- Ensure consistent standards and testing across the federal government for lead exposure regardless of the source of the exposure. This will include implementing revisions to relevant regulations including the Lead and Copper Rule, ensuring all guidelines are aligned with the most recent evidence-based practices around lead exposure, eliminating gaps in compliance and enforcement with existing rules, and setting targets for local utilities to eliminate lead in pipes.
Ensure we are able to respond to any future lead emergency:
- Allow federal funds to be used for hybrid disasters, such as the Flint water crisis. Work with Congress to amend the Stafford Act to include hybrid disasters under a disaster declaration and allow emergencies that involve a mix of natural causes and human intervention to qualify as disasters that are eligible for increased funds to help respond to those situations.
- Respond quickly to potential lead emergencies. Ensure that relevant agencies are sharing information and risk assessments to anticipate and more quickly respond to any potential lead emergencies.
- Incentivize innovation that will make identifying and remediating lead safer, cheaper, and faster. Partner with universities and private industry through public-private partnerships and the National Institutes of Health to develop detection and remediation technologies and practices.
Strengthen lead poison prevention efforts and provide increased resources for families already impacted by lead poisoning:
- Provide universal health care that includes coverage of lead poisoning interventions for children. Ensure publicly-run health programs, including Medicaid and an expanded Medicare, cover lead hazard control interventions in homes of children showing elevated levels of lead in their blood.
- Identify children at risk for lead poisoning early. Partner with state and local governments to require and expand blood lead level testing for newborns and children until the age of 2 through reforms to the healthcare system, including as a requirement in government-financed healthcare programs.
- Support families with children who have tested with elevated blood lead levels. Fund support services including counseling, tutoring, education on nutritional needs, and other interventions for children who have tested with elevated blood lead levels and for their families, including through full funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
- Center racial and economic justice in the efforts to address lead poisoning and other environmental policy issues. Strengthen the Office of Environmental Justice within the EPA and ensure it is a leading voice on climate and environmental policy.