WASHINGTON, DC— In an effort to better protect families in HUD-assisted housing from lead-based paint hazards, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and U.S. Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL25) and David Price (D-NC4) today called upon the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to produce a report on the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) programs that address lead-based paint hazards.

Recent reports of lead-based paint hazards in HUD-assisted housing have raised concerns about whether HUD has sufficient oversight to ensure that both property owners and public housing agencies are complying with existing regulations pertaining to lead-based paint hazards and whether those regulations are effective.  Seventy percent of lead poisonings are a result of dust exposure from lead-based paint in the home, and children, especially those living at or below the poverty line that reside in older homes, are at risk of long-term neurological harm, including reduced IQ, behavioral changes, and reduced educational attainment.

“Protecting children from lead poisoning must be a national priority.  HUD must ensure that children living in assisted housing are protected and that their programs are effective in addressing this problem,” said Senator Reed. “This study by GAO will help us better understand how well HUD’s current programs are working and provide invaluable insight into how to achieve better health outcomes from current programs, close gaps in regulations, increase coordination among federal, state, and local partners, and improve the use of resources to ensure that more children are helped with every dollar spent.”

“Since the beginning of my Senate service, I have worked to raise awareness and secure funding to address lead-based hazards, which remain one of the most prevalent health issues facing children today,” said Senator Collins.  “Once completed, this GAO report will improve our understanding of the gaps in HUD’s enforcement of lead-based paint regulations and enhance our efforts to eradicate this largely preventable health problem.”

“I am pleased to join my appropriations colleagues in requesting this report from the GAO. Lead-based paint continues to pose a hazard to children across the country, and the recent accounts of toxic paint in HUD-assisted housing are alarming.  Lead-based paint poisoning is preventable, and it is vital that we as policymakers gain critical information about the best and most effective uses of federal funding to combat this issue,” said Congressman Diaz-Balart.

“Lead-based paint hazards in HUD-assisted housing pose a grave threat to the health of vulnerable individuals, especially children. I hope that the GAO will conduct a thorough and comprehensive audit that will help inform our continued efforts to address lead hazards,” said Congressman Price.

The Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) oversees funding for federal housing programs.  A version of this study was included in fiscal year 2017 report language by both the Senate and House THUD Appropriations subcommittees.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that at least 4 million households have children living in them that are being exposed to high levels of lead and that approximately 24 million homes in the United States have deteriorated lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust.

The full text of the letter is as follows:

February 7, 2017

The Honorable Gene L. Dodaro
Comptroller General
U.S. Government Accountability Office
441 G Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20548

Dear Mr. Dodaro:

Lead poisoning can cause severe and lasting harms to the developing brains of our children, including reduced IQ, behavioral problems, and learning disabilities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 535,000 American children under six years of age are affected by lead poisoning.  According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), seventy percent of these lead poisoning cases are the result of dust exposure from lead-based paint in homes built prior to 1978.  This preventable condition traps generations in poverty and can rob children of their opportunity to succeed.

Preventing lead poisoning in children who live in our nation’s housing has long been a priority for the Committee. Over the last decade, we have provided more than $1 billion for initiatives that address lead-based paint hazards. However, recent reports of lead-based paint hazards in HUD-assisted housing raise concerns that HUD has insufficient oversight to ensure that public housing agencies and property owners comply with regulations regarding inspections for and remediation of lead-based paint hazards.  Given the impact that lead-based paint hazards continue to have on our nation’s children, we ask for more information on HUD’s policies, procedures, and processes for addressing this problem.

Subsequently, we request that GAO examine these issues and provide a report on:

1. The effectiveness of federal programs for addressing lead-based paint hazards in dwellings;

2. Current partnerships between public housing agencies (including State housing finance agencies) and public health agencies that address lead-based paint hazards, and determine whether those partnerships could be replicated and enhanced through improved data collection, analysis, and dissemination among stakeholders;

3. Gaps in compliance and enforcement of HUD’s lead-based paint regulations;

4. Opportunities for improving coordination and leveraging of public and private funds in order to reduce the federal costs associated with identifying and remediating lead-based paint hazards;

5. The effectiveness and efficiency of existing HUD protocols for identifying and addressing lead-based paint hazards, and determine whether those protocols are aligned with accepted environmental health practices to ensure the best and appropriate health outcomes and to reduce further exposure; and

6. HUD’s processes for assessing risks of lead-based paint hazards during initial and periodic inspections in dwellings occupied by households assisted under the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program and the impact, if any, on landlord participation and the availability of affordable housing.

Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter.  Please contact Rajat Mathur, Jennifer Hollrah, Jordan Stone, and Joe Carlile of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittees of the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations if you have any questions about this request.