EPA Targets Lead Poisoning By Reducing Exposure In At-Risk Communities
U.S. environmental regulators are rolling out new strategy to reduce the risk of lead poisoning by targeting childhood exposure to the toxic metal in high-risk communities in the U.S., using funding from last year’s infrastructure improvement law.
As part of National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on October 27 that it is launching the first-ever agency lead strategy, which will focus on how the agency will use its authority and resources to reduce lead exposure in high-risk communities overburdened by pollution.
The Strategy to Reduce Lead Exposures and Disparities in U.S. Communities, explains how the EPA plans to address community exposure to lead sources using new funding made available by President Biden’s infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law on November 15, 2021.
Under the Biden-Harris Administration, the EPA has been given access to funding through the infrastructure law which dedicates $15 billion to the EPA to address lead exposure. This includes $1.16 billion to support lead service line projects, $600 million to cleanup construction projects at more than 50 Superfund sites, and $25 million over the next 5 years to support small and disadvantaged communities in the development of lead service line identification technologies and the equitable distribution of resources through EPA State Revolving Funds.
The new strategy focuses on advancing environmental justice and equity, while highlighting and intervening in populations that may face the highest risks. The aim is to accelerate efforts to reduce lead exposure in children and to help reduce racial and socioeconomic disparities in lead exposure.
Lead Exposure Risks
Lead exposure can lead to a wide array of health side effects in nearly every organ and system of the human body. Research has linked lead poisoning during childhood to lifelong problems with learning and memory.
Research indicates children with lead poisoning have lower test scores, faced increased risk of kidney damage, and increased risk of ADHD. Another study indicated lead exposure during childhood reduces the brain’s structural integrity later in life.
“The evidence is clear,” EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said. “Children exposed to lead are more likely to face adverse health impacts and other serious challenges throughout life —from slowed growth and development to learning and behavioral disabilities.”
Researchers warn lead exposure, even at low levels, is likely a frequent and unacknowledged contributor to deaths in the United States.
Recommendations from the National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week highlight the need to educate the community on the hazards of lead exposure, the need for blood testing to detect lead in children, and testing for the home to minimize the risk of daily lead exposure, especially if it was built before 1978. Even small amounts of lead dust can cause harm to children.
Lead-contaminated dust is one of the most common exposures of elevated blood lead levels in children. The dust from chipped or peeling lead-based paint in houses built before 1978 is a serious concern. To that end, the EPA also announced enforcement actions against renovation companies, landlords and other entities violating lead rules implemented to protect the public.
This includes prosecution and civil actions against renovators in many popular tv shows, like “Good Bones” and “Maine Cabin Masters,” as well as property management firms and other landlords who committed or were aware of renovation violations linked to lead exposure.
EPA officials say they hope the rollout of the agency strategy, alongside Lead Prevention Week, will help to push the agenda to protect children from exposure and to provide reuses to communities that face the highest risk.
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