Washington, D.C–(HISPANIC PR WIRE)–October 24, 2002–In honor of National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, the Children’s Health Forum, chaired by former NAACP Executive Director and CEO Dr. Benjamin Hooks and former HUD Secretary Jack Kemp, called for new tactics in the fight against childhood lead poisoning. Hooks highlighted programs in Boston, Rhode Island, and California as innovative approaches to reducing children’s exposure to lead hazards. In addition, he called on President Bush to take a stand on the issue and urged Congress to pass the proposed $75 million lead poisoning program introduced by Senator Barbara Mikulski in a pending VA-HUD appropriations bill.
“The United States Government should make the same commitment that Boston has made – the complete eradication of childhood lead poisoning in the next five years. Nothing but ignorance and inaction stand in the way of achieving this goal,” Hooks declared in his request for President Bush’s leadership.
Secretary Jack Kemp, Co-Chair of Children’s Health Forum, cited initiatives in Rhode Island and California that enable state regulators to hold landlords responsible for lead hazardous conditions. “States like California and Rhode Island have passed important legislation to address the problem this year, and we need other mayors and governors to propose action in their own respective cities and states to make the campaign to end childhood lead poisoning a truly national campaign.”
The Children’s Health Forum (CHF), which launched in August 2002, is leading a growing movement against a health hazard that the Centers for Disease Control call the single greatest preventable environmental health problem facing America’s children (see statistics below). State Senator Thomas Izzo, sponsor of Rhode Island’s strict childhood lead poisoning legislation, has joined CHF’s Advisory Committee. John Bryant, who has spent over a decade focused on revitalizing America’s inner cities as founder, chairman, and CEO of Operation HOPE, will also serve on the CHF Advisory Committee.
The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee included in its 2003 appropriations package a $75 million program offering federal grants to the 25 cities most threatened by lead poisoning. The funding was sponsored by Senator Barbara Mikulski as part of the VA-HUD bill. The full Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives must include this important program in the final spending bill sent to the President. Dr. Hooks called on President Bush to support the funding as part of a new, administration-wide commitment to addressing the problem. CHF also called upon the Bush administration to make childhood lead poisoning one of its top health priorities.
Facts About Childhood Lead Poisoning:
— Exposures to lead in childhood can cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and at very high levels, seizures, coma and even death. (CDC)
— While adults absorb about 11 percent of lead reaching the digestive tract, children may absorb 30% to 75%. (FDA)
— Since the late 1970s, children’s average blood lead levels have decreased more than 80%, but the problem of childhood lead poisoning remains concentrated on a local level. (CDC)
— The prevalence of elevated blood lead levels among children living in pre-1946 low-income housing is as much as 30 times greater than that of middle-income children living in newer housing. (CDC)
— In the last decade, of all U.S. children under six who had dangerously high blood lead levels, almost 85% were enrolled in Medicaid. (CDC)
— Nearly 22% of African-American children and living in older houses and apartments have elevated blood lead levels. (CDC)
— Mexican American children are also at increased risk – 13% of those living in older housing have blood lead levels over 10 mcg/dL, in contrast to less than 6% of non-Hispanic white children living in such housing. (CDC)
Initiatives that are making a difference:
— In Rhode Island, State Senator Thomas Izzo sponsored the Lead Hazard Control and Mitigation Act, which guarantees safe housing for pregnant women and children under six. The law also gives tenants the right to sue their landlords for failure to control lead hazards.
— In California, Governor Gray Davis signed a provision that will make lead hazards a violation of state housing laws, giving the state health department the authority to collect data and making it easier for health officials to identify, treat, and prevent childhood lead poisoning.
— In Boston, Mayor Thomas Menino has set 2005 as a city-wide goal to eliminate childhood lead poisoning. By emphasizing practical, proactive, results-oriented approaches, Boston has already reduced childhood lead poisoning by 54% in three years.
— In Maryland, childhood lead poisoning has decreased more than 80% since 1995, when state law began to require that property-owners implement lead-hazard reduction measures.
— In Baltimore, Mayor Martin O’Malley identified childhood lead poisoning prevention as a priority public health issue in 2000. A plan for a two-phase coordinated initiative involving city and state agencies was developed immediately and is underway.