“We are always looking for ways to keep our youngest children and families safe and healthy”, explained Julian Castro, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, when he visited Providence on August 31, 2016. He chose Rhode Island to make a substantial announcement about a proposed regulation regarding the reference levels of lead, in part because we have one of the greatest champions of lead safe homes in the country, in our own Senior Senator, Jack Reed. Rhode Island is one of the few states in the nation that recognizes the risk of lead exposure and requires universal screening.
According to Senator Reed, an “estimated 80% of Rhode Island’s hous(es) were built before 1978”. This means that 80% of our houses have the potential to contain lead. And we know from Barbara Fields, Executive Director of Housing, that we have some of the oldest rental properties in the nation.
The proposed regulation would lower HUD’s threshold for lead in children’s blood to match the standard set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; it changes the “reference level” from 20 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood to 5. We know that even very low levels of lead exposure in early childhood has a detrimental impact on a child’s IQ and increases the chances of them having cognitive and learning difficulties. Earlier detection creates the possibility of a different outcome and with the rule change, we would have a chance to make this possible.
Please join me in applauding our state and federal leaders in championing the healthy development of young children.