McEachin, García Unveil Legislation to Protect Children and Families in Public Housing From Lead Poisoning

October 30, 2020
Press Release

Endorsed by nearly 20 groups, the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2020 builds on Congressman McEachin’s work to champion environmental health in all communities.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) today unveiled the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2020, legislation to protect children in federally-assisted housing from dangerous lead exposure and poisoning. Co-introduced by Congressman Jesús “Chuy” Garciía (IL-04), the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2020 would adopt federal prevention measures, including comprehensive risk assessments, to determine the presence of lead hazards. 

While the incidence of lead poisoning in children has diminished, current federal regulations do not adequately prevent contact with lead or serious, lead-related health impacts. Children with lead poisoning often require long-term medical treatment and special education services, as some effects can be irreversible.

“All children deserve to live in a home that is free of toxins, but for far too long, children living in federally-assisted housing have suffered from lead paint exposure,” said Congressman McEachin. “We have a responsibility to ensure that our children are as safe as possible, and this moment – when more families are staying at home to combat the COVID-19 pandemic – demands that we create a future free of environmental hazards. That work must begin by ensuring that homes are free of toxic lead hazards, and the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act would protect millions of children from the devastating impacts of lead poisoning. Together, we can create a safer, healthier world for our nation’s children.”

“Everyone deserves a safe home, but in communities like mine in Chicago with older housing stock, the dangers of lead poisoning fall disproportionately on people of color. That’s why I’m joining Congressman McEachin to introduce the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act. Our bill will ensure proactive, thorough testing is performed for lead paint hazards in federally assisted housing where children could be exposed,” said Congressman García. “Current law requires only a quick visual check for lead hazards in federally assisted housing until a child is already sick-- and that’s too little, too late. Congress must act to keep our kids safe from lead poisoning.”

Congressman McEachin’s Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2020 is supported by more than 15 groups, including Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI), National Housing Law Protect (NHLP), National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Disability Rights Network, Earthjustice, RESULTS, National NeighborWorks® Association, Brain Injury Association of America, Public Justice Center, National Housing Trust, National Center for Healthy Housing, the Arc of the United States, Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Housing Task Force, National Homelessness Law Center, the American Public Health Association, Trust for America’s Health, Elevate Energy, and the Poverty & Race Research Action Council.

“Lead poisoning erodes children's ability to flourish, access opportunity, and reach their fullest potential,” said Emily Benfer, Wake Forest School of Law professor and leading researcher on health justice. “The Lead Safe Housing for Kids Act is a critical measure that will protect millions of children from permanent brain damage and ensure that low-income families are no longer forced to choose between homelessness or lead poisoning. By correcting federal housing standards that require a child to develop lead poisoning before any interventions occur, the LSHKA protects our most vulnerable children from severe harm. Eliminating the scourge of lead poisoning must be a national priority that starts with the LSHKA.”

“It is unconscionable that children in 2020 are still suffering from lead paint exposure in federally assisted homes, said Shamus Roller, NHLP executive director. Our current inspection standards require children to demonstrate exposure to lead poisoning before HUD will inspect the property, and landlords are required to take action to remediate. Mr. McEachin’s Lead Safe Housing for Kids Act will not only mandate sufficient inspection protocols, it will provide the funds to remediate the hazard. NHLP celebrates this incredible legislation that will keep children safe at home and secure brighter futures for those who live in federally assisted programs.”

For far too long, children living in federally supported housing have been provided lesser protections from the dangers posed by exposure to lead hazards in their homes,” said Ruth Ann Norton, GHHI president and CEO.  “Under the Lead Safe Housing for Kids Act introduced by Congressmen Donald McEachin and Jesús ‘Chuy’ García, these homes will finally have the standards and protections afforded through other HUD programs and the private markets to protect the children who live there and more importantly better ensure their life outcomes and opportunities.” 



About the Lead Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2020
The Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2020 would ensure safe, affordable housing for families by adopting comprehensive measures to reduce the threat of lead exposure and poisoning, including:

  • Requiring the use of risk assessments, a more accurate evaluation tool to identify lead hazards before a family moves into the home;
  • Requiring landlords to disclose and control lead hazards if found in the home, as well as providing notice to tenants about their rights under the Fair Housing Act; 
  • Providing a process for families to relocate on an emergency basis, without penalty or the loss of assistance, if a lead hazard is identified in the home and the landlord fails to control the hazard within 30 days of being notified of the presence of lead; and
  • Establishing a robust demonstration project for tenant-based housing to help cover the cost of remediation.

The full text of the Lead Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2020 is available here. 

When a child’s blood level reaches 5 µg/dL (micrograms of lead per deciliter), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) call for a public health intervention.This bill seeks to proactively eradicate lead poisoning from the homes supported by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Preventing lead poisoning saves families and taxpayers anywhere from $17 to $221 for every dollar invested If untreated, lead poisoning can cause permanent damage to a child’s overall health, neurological system, and behavior. This damage can substantially cost families, and their fellow taxpayers, by necessitating potentially lifelong healthcare.

According to the National Housing Law Project, there are over 90,400 children in the US living in housing under the House Choice Voucher Program who have lead poisoning, and there are an additional 340,000 children living in federally-assisted housing who are at risk. Columbia University estimates the potential societal costs of lead poisoning in the Housing Choice Voucher Program to be almost $1.2 billion.

Additional Statements of Support for the Lead Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2020

“Safe, habitable, affordable housing is a human right,” said Eric Tars, National Homelessness Law Center legal director. “That means that when we call on Congress to act quickly on the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act, we are not asking for charity, but rather demanding the government do its duty to its people to ensure safe housing is available to all. Lead paint was banned more than 40 years ago – it is inexcusable that remediation efforts have not reached everyone, and it is even more inexcusable that this public health crisis continues to disparately impact Black and Brown communities. [We demand] that Congress pass the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act today, and not stop until the human rights of all our citizens are respected, protected, and fulfilled.”

"Health and housing are core human and civil rights, and as a society we should be proud to ensure those rights through our subsidized housing programs,” said Megan Haberle, Poverty & Race Research Action Council deputy director. “This legislation is one important step toward realizing those values. Most importantly, it takes aim at one of our nation's severe health risks for children. Every child should have a safe, healthy, and fulfilling life - including those participating in the Housing Choice Voucher program. We are thankful for this key measure."     

“The Brain Injury Association of America is pleased to endorse the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2020,” said Susan H. Connors, Brain Injury Association of America president and CEO. “We are grateful to Congressmen McEachin and Garcia for introducing this critically important legislation. Lead poisoning in young children can seriously impair brain development and lead to lifelong disabilities. We strongly support the bill.”

“We applaud Representative McEachin for introducing the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act as this bill will better protect both children from the harmful effects of lead poisoning and people with disabilities living in housing receiving Federal assistance”, said Curt Decker, National Disability Rights Network executive director.