Reed Combats Lead Poisoning in Rhode Island
WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the ranking member of the Senate Housing Subcommittee and a member of the Senate Health and Education Committee, has led the fight in the Senate to prevent lead poisoning nationally and in Rhode Island. Knowing the dangers of lead poisoning to our children, Reed has worked in Congress to increase funding to combat lead poisoning and to ensure that children are screened for lead in their blood before entering kindergarten. He secured a 25% increase in 2001, and a 10% increase in 2002 for HUD programs to remove lead based paint from homes, educate families about the dangers of lead poisoning, help cities comply with new federal lead-safety regulations, test low-income housing units for the presence of lead, and train inspectors and workers to identify lead contamination in housing.He has sponsored legislation to require all children covered under federal health programs to be screened and treated for lead poisoning. Reed authored a provision that was included in the Childrens Health Act of 2000, which was signed into law in October 2000 authorizing the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention to issue recommendations to ensure uniform reporting requirements for blood lead levels at state laboratories and to improve data collection on the number of children screened for lead poisoning annually.Upon discovering that the Rhode Island Housing Authority was not implementing federal regulations regarding the elimination of lead-hazards in federally subsidized housing (Section 8 Housing), Senator Reed secured an agreement between the federal government and the Housing Authority to ensure greater oversight and coordination of the Housing Authorities efforts.In 2003, Reed created a program to combat lead poisoning in communities with the highest rates of lead poisoned children. The funding is provided through HUDs Office of Lead Hazard Control to areas that have a disproportionately high-percentage of children under age six with dangerous levels of lead in their blood and a demonstrated commitment to fighting the problem. Reed created the program after learning that the demand for funding for efforts to combat lead poisoning far exceeded the budget of the Office of Lead Hazard Control diluting the impact funding could have on any hard hit single city.Rhode Island, which has among the highest levels of lead poisoning in the nation, has received the most funding, per capita, of any state for lead abatement. Since 1993, Rhode Island has received over $34 million for lead abatement efforts from HUD.Lead poisoning dramatically impacts a child's ability to learn and has a significant cost for schools. With the dedicated resources of the state and federal government we should be able to continue to reduce the incidences of lead poisoning in children, Reed said. While we are making improvements in reducing the risk of lead poisoning in some areas, there is significant work left to be done. We must be diligent at identifying new and traditional sources of lead, screening and treating poisoned children, identifying and removing the source of their exposure, and most importantly, educating parents, landlords and whole communities about the dangers of lead.