Golden Introduces Comprehensive Bill to End Child Lead Poisoning in American Homes

September 19, 2019
Press Release
Golden’s Lead Free Future Act would remove lead danger from hundreds of thousands of homes a year, protect millions of children, and save taxpayers & local communities billions of dollars

WASHINGTON — With more than 2,600 Maine children diagnosed or likely to have been diagnosed with lead poisoning in Maine in the past 5 years, Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02) introduced comprehensive legislation today that would direct the federal government to take the action necessary to end lead poisoning in American homes. Golden’s Lead Free Future Act invests $2.5 billion dollars a year over five years in lead screening, education, and abatement over five years, enough to remove lead from more than 220,000 homes annually and screen millions more for presence of the poisonous metal. 

In Maine, over 2,600 children were either diagnosed with lead poisoning or were likely to have been diagnosed with lead poisoning had they been screened over the last five years. In addition to the impacts on individual kids and families, lead poisoning places an enormous burden on victims’ communities. Special education costs alone average $218,400 per poisoned child before they graduate high school, placing a $567 million burden on Maine communities just for children diagnosed in the last five years. When weighed against the education, public health, and services costs, lead abatement is a remarkably strong investment. For every dollar invested in lead control, between $17 and $221 are estimated to be returned to the community. 

“Lead poisoning robs thousands of Maine kids of a healthy life and it costs our communities billions of dollars they desperately need. Yet our government has been content with a status quo that waits to remove lead from homes until after a child has been poisoned,” said Golden.“We need to change the way Washington addresses this problem and focus on eliminating lead from homes, plain and simple. The Lead Free Future Act will protect millions of young lives, save Maine communities millions of dollars, and make the investments we know we need to make to end lead poisoning in the home.”

The Lead Free Future Act was developed in collaboration with organizations leading the fight against lead poisoning in Maine and on the national level, including the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative and the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition.

"Jared Golden has proven to be a national leader in protecting children from the irreversible impacts of lead exposure, and had led Maine to implement lead poisoning prevention standards consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention national recommendations. The toxic legacy of lead irreversibly damages over 535,000 American children under the age of six each year. As a nation, we have a moral imperative to stop  knowingly allowing children to be poisoned by lead, robbing them of their potential for lifelong health and success. The Lead-Free Future Act provides investment at greater scale, to advance our shared mission of eliminating lead poisoning for this and future generations. The Green and Healthy Homes Initiative is proud to support this bill. Together, we can eliminate childhood lead poisoning once at for all." – Ruth Ann Norton, President & CEO, Green and Healthy Homes Initiative

“Lead hazards are one of the biggest obstacles we face in our work to ensure all Mainers have safe, affordable housing. We’re making progress in our state, but the grim reality is that thousands of Maine children are still being poisoned by lead. We need to change the game if we’re going to solve this problem. Congressman Golden’s Lead Free Future Act is bold legislation that reflects the realities we see in Maine every day and finally tackles the lead crisis with the intention of ending it once and for all.” – Greg Payne, Director, Maine Affordable Housing Coalition

Golden’s legislation would provide $12.5 billion in grants to state and local governments, as well as nonprofits, to implement strategies for lead hazard control in American homes, perform lead screening, and conduct education and data analysis across the country. Significantly, the grants will prioritize improving outcomes for low-income children under the age of six and pregnant women, as well as areas with a high proportion of pre-1978 housing stock and where household income does not exceed 80 percent of the area median income. Urban and rural areas across Maine meet the standards necessary for grant eligibility under the legislation.

Among other provisions, Golden’s bill would: 

  • Establish grant programs to invest $12.5 billion in lead screening, education, abatement, and data collection across the U.S. 
  • Require states to lower their blood lead reference levels to the CDC standard of 5 µg/dL or below. Lowering this standard ensures more lead poisoning cases are diagnosed and more homes are tested and abated. 
  • Direct all federal housing and any housing receiving a federal mortgage, federal insurance, or federal mortgage assistance to undergo lead-risk assessments including lead dust wipe testing, drinking water testing, and other lead remediation activities. 

Golden has made addressing lead poisoning a focus of his time in elected office, a reflection of the fact that his home city of Lewiston has the highest concentration of lead poisoning in the state. As a state representative, he helped Maine become first in the nation to lower its blood lead level to the CDC-recommended standard in 2015, leading to a seven-fold increase in the number of homes inspected for lead hazards, and a six-fold increase in homes under orders to remove identified sources of lead. Just last year, Golden led the passage of a law that set up a fund to help landlords perform abatement in rental units, enough money to remove lead from about 400 homes across the state. 

In March, Golden called on Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson to significantly escalate his agency’s response to the lead crisis.The letter laid out several of the principles that are now detailed in the Lead Free Future Act. 

Read the text of Golden’s bill here.

Read a summary of the bill here. 

Read more information on the lead crisis in Maine, here and here.