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EPA called on by AG Nessel to strengthen protections against childhood lead poisoning

AG Dana Nessel
Posted at 4:18 PM, Mar 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-21 16:20:10-04

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel in tandem with 19 state attorneys called on the United States Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen protections against lead poisoning specifically for children in low-income communities and communities of color.

"We have already seen what lead can do when it gets into the water supply,” Nessel said. “I’m proud to stand with my colleagues in asking the EPA to strengthen its approach to childhood lead poisoning and the ways children can be exposed – not just through the water they drink, but also the very food that they eat, the paint and soil in their homes and daycares, and gasoline in cars driven nearby. Since lead poisoning disproportionately affects low-income children, this is an environmental justice issue that requires expeditious action on the EPA’s part.”

According to a study published by the Journal of American Medical Association Pediatrics suggests that more than half of all U.S. children have detectable levels of lead in their blood and that the elevated lead levels were closely related to poverty, race, and living in older housing.

Officials report that children exposed to lead are at risk for neurological and physical problems. Children under the age of 6 are more likely than any other age group to be exposed to lead due to their chewing lead paint chips; breathing in or swallowing dust from old lead paint that gets on floors, windowsills, and hands; breathing lead dust from the dirt they play in; ingesting it through foods containing lead, and playing with toys and other consumer products that contain lead.

AG Nessel's coalition believes other measures including aggressively targeting hazards posed by lead in paint, drinking water, soils, aviation fuel, air, food, and through occupational and take-home exposures should be focused on in the below ways:

  • Increasing resources for the enforcement of existing laws relating to lead paint in rental housing and amending existing regulations to require landlords to increase the frequency of inspections of houses with a history of lead paint hazards.
  • Developing proactive policies and standards for hazardous waste sites, drinking water, and other sources of lead exposure that are more protective of health and designed to reduce lead poisoning.
  • Developing aggressive deadlines for tightening standards, developing enforcement policies, and conducting an endangerment determination for lead in aviation gas under the Clean Air Act.
  • Identifying meaningful environmental justice targets to ensure that the communities most in need and the vulnerable are protected.
  • Encouraging inter-agency collaboration and data-sharing with other federal agencies such as HUD, OSHA, FAA, and FDA, and USDA.
  • Pledging allocations of federal funds to replace drinking water service lines containing lead reach struggling and historically marginalized communities.
  • Adopting federal regulations requiring testing of water and remediation of lead service lines and lead plumbing fixtures in public, charter, and private schools, and in childcare centers. 
  • Expanding multi-language informational campaigns and blood lead testing programs to address “take-home lead” exposure -- lead from work that accumulates on a worker’s clothing and shoes.
  • Developing other specific metrics for achieving and evaluating success in lead reduction.

AG Nessel is joined by the attorneys general of New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia in submitting the comments.