Congress Delivers Lump of Lead to Our Nation's Children


Fiscal Year 2012 Omnibus Bill Cuts CDC’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program by 94%

Columbia, MD (December 20, 2011)—Ending the federal budgeting process last week, Congress dealt a devastating blow to the fight against childhood lead poisoning. The Omnibus Appropriations Bill cut funding for the CDC’s Healthy Homes Lead Poisoning Prevention Program to $2 million—a 94% reduction from FY11.

Lead poisoning still remains a significant environmental public health threat that affects over 30 million homes and nearly a half-million children annually.

Today, parents of lead poisoned children can rely on their state or local health departments for help. A nurse or trained professional will come to their house and find the source of lead poisoning—such as lead-based paint, soil, or dust, water, or even toys or pottery. The program may connect parents to resources to remove hazards and can compel rental property owners to fix hazards. The program also prevents the disease through policies, and community education, and outreach.

“Congress gave our children a lump of lead this holiday season,” said Rebecca Morley, Executive Director of the National Center for Healthy Housing.

“Studies show that educating a child with lead poisoning costs an extra $38,000. If even half of the children with lead poisoning incur these costs, that’s a $10 billion price tag,” continued Morley. “The cost of eliminating this program is staggering.”

The decision will result in the near-elimination of the program and massive job loss at the state and local levels. The move follows an advisory committee’s recommendation to CDC to lower the threshold for when a child is considered to have enough lead in his or her blood that follow-up action is needed. This change in the “action level” will more than double the caseload of poisoned kids that need the health department’s help.

“The burden on the most vulnerable families just got heavier. Too many children with lead poisoning already go undiagnosed. Without this program, we will return to the era of children being hospitalized for lead. Why is Congress treating our children like canaries in a coal mine?” said Liz Colón, parent and organizer for the Childhood Lead Action Project in Rhode Island.

The impact of these proposed cuts will also fall directly on the backs of low-income families and communities of color that are disproportionately impacted by environmental health hazards. Nationally, African American children are three times more likely to suffer from lead poisoning. In some locales, African American and Latino children are eight to nine times more likely to enter school with a history of lead poisoning.

Education officials point to lead exposure as one of the factors influencing the achievement gap between white and minority students and between wealthy and poor students. High blood lead levels are associated with a decline of about 15% in reading and math scores. Children poisoned by lead are seven times more likely to drop out of school and six times more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system.

"Lead poisoning is preventable. We are taking a huge step back in protecting our children's health, safety, and future by eliminating the resources communities need to prevent and address lead exposures," said Nsedu Witherspoon, Executive Director of the Children's Environmental Health Network.


The National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) is the only national scientific and technical non-profit organization dedicated to creating healthy and safe homes for America’s children through practical and proven steps. NCHH develops scientifically valid and practical strategies to make homes safe from hazards, to alert low- income families about housing-related health risks, and to help them protect their children.

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