Menendez Introduces Bill to Protect Children from Lead Exposure

Menendez Introduces Bill to Protect Children from Lead Exposure



WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez today introduced legislation to ensure safe, affordable housing by reducing the threat of lead exposure and lead poisoning of children in federally assisted housing. More than 3,000 children each year in the Garden State are diagnosed with lead poisoning from exposure to lead paint and other sources in the home, according to data compiled by the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH). 

“It’s incomprehensible that, in 2019, children are still growing up in homes where it’s unsafe to breathe the air because of lead contamination,” said Sen. Menendez.  “There is no safe lead level for children, which is why we must do more to strengthen inspection standards and prevent children’s exposure to lead hazards in federally-assisted housing.  The cost of inaction is far too great for our kids and our communities.” 

According to the latest NJDOH data released in 2017, 2.5 percent of children between the ages of six months and 26 months old have tested with blood lead levels higher than the CDC’s standard.

Lead hazards in a home pose serious health and safety threats to children. Lead poisoning causes significant health, neurological, behavioral, intellectual, and academic impairments. When absorbed into the body, especially in young children, lead can damage the brain and nervous system, slow development and growth, and cause learning or behavioral problems. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lead-based paint hazards, such as dust containing lead and chips from deteriorated lead-based paint, are the most common source of lead exposure for U.S. children. A 2011 HUD survey found that lead-based paint is in roughly 37 million U.S. homes, of which 93 percent were built before 1978––the year lead-based paint use in housing was banned in the United States.

Left unaddressed, lead poisoning can cause irreversible and long-term health, neurological, and behavioral damage in children. Children with lead poisoning require ongoing medical treatment and special education services, and studies have demonstrated the profound impact of childhood lead poisoning on outcomes such as school graduation rates. Most importantly, lead poisoning prevention preserves a child’s ability to reach his or her full potential.

Specifically, the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2019 would ensure that families and children living in federally assisted housing are protected from the devastating consequences of lead poisoning by adopting primary prevention measures to protect children in low-income housing, including:

  • Prohibiting the use of visual assessments for low-income housing constructed prior to 1978 and requiring the use of more stringent risk assessments or more accurate evaluation tools that align with prevailing science to identify lead hazards before a family moves into the home;
  • Providing a process for families to relocate on an emergency basis, without penalty or the loss of assistance, if a lead hazard is identified in a home and the landlord fails to control the hazard within 30 days of being notified of the presence of lead; and
  • Requiring landlords to disclose the presence of lead if lead hazards are found in the home.

This bipartisan bill is cosponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tim Scott (D-S.C.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.).

Sen. Menendez last introduced this bill in 2016 at a press conference held at a public housing complex in Jersey City.