Budget Increase Signals Support for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Lead-Poisoning Prevention Program
Columbia, MD (June 15, 2012) —Today, the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) praised the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee decision to increase funding for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program from $2 million in fiscal year 2012 to $10 million in fiscal year 2013.
Initially, the appropriations subcommittee which handles the CDC’s budget had proposed $4 million for the program. But an amendment deemed “heroic” by advocates brought the funding for the program to $10 million. The amendment was offered during yesterday’s full committee meeting by U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), whose home state of Rhode Island was once coined the “lead poisoning capital of the country.”
Rebecca Morley, Executive Director of NCHH said, “This is nothing short of a miracle, in this fiscal environment. We applaud the efforts of Senator Reed, who led this effort to advance lead-poisoning prevention programs for communities and children nationwide.”
Morley pledged to keep fighting, alongside of parents and other advocates, for the full restoration of the program as the budget process continues to unfold. Before the devastating cuts to the program in 2012, the program received an annual appropriation of at least $29 million.
“I am thrilled that our own Senator led the way to begin restoring funding to CDC and hope that the entire Congress will join this fight against lead poisoning. Without a program to require testing, my son could be severely brain-damaged or dead. Without prevention, more children will stay in harm’s way.” Liz Colón, parent and organizer for the Childhood Lead Action Project in Rhode Island.
NCHH also praised the efforts of U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee who supported this increase. In March, the non-profit group, Iowa Parents Against Lead, joined NCHH and others in Washington DC to make a plea for the restoration of CDC’s program. Sean Music, a 12 year old boy who was lead poisoned as a toddler, told Chairman Harkin exactly how his life had been impacted.
In a follow-up note to the Senator, Sean said “Thank you so much for listening to my Mom talk about the budget cuts to the CDC healthy homes and lead poisoning program. I am lucky I had the help, but lots of kids won't be unless the program can get more money to help them. They won't do well in school and they won't be able to find good jobs when they get older.”
After hearing news of the committee’s action, Sean’s mom Brenda Music, said “It restores our faith in our political leaders when you feel that you’ve been heard. We are so grateful to Senator Harkin for resuscitating this important program that will keep other families from experiencing the hardships that we have endured because of lead poisoning.”
The program provides funding to 35 state and local lead programs with efforts to eliminate elevated blood lead levels among young children. Nearly a half million children rely on the services of the program to monitor blood lead screening and respond to every child who has an elevated blood lead level with a home inspection for lead hazards and referrals for medical attention and home repairs.
Children with a history of lead poisoning are seven times more likely to drop out of school. Several new studies show a strong relationship between very low levels of lead exposure and decreased test scores, including a decline of about 15% in reading and math scores, a “learning disabled” classification, and decreased likelihood of placement into gifted programs. These results held up even when researchers accounted for race, income, and other factors that might affect learning.
The budget decision comes on the heels of a recent decision by CDC to redefine the “level of concern” for lead poisoning from 10 micrograms per deciliter (instituted 20 years ago) to a new “reference value” of 5 micrograms per deciliter. Over a half million children have blood lead levels above the reference value, and even more are at risk of lead poisoning. An estimated 3 million children presently live in homes with lead-based paint hazards.
Yesterday’s action completes the Senate committee version of the Labor-Health and Human Services budget bill. The House version of this bill is expected to be considered later this month, and then the Senate and House must agree on the funding level for the program, which could occur several months from now.
The National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) is the only national 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.