Newark, NJ – July 12, 2023 — Mayor Ras J. Baraka, Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe, and Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff announced the latest action of the Biden-Harris Administration to reduce lead exposure and address the significant disparities in lead exposure along racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic lines at a press conference today. The announcement was made at the Department of Health and Community Wellness, located at 110 William Street.
The EPA proposal will strengthen requirements for the removal of lead-based paint hazards in pre-1978 buildings and childcare facilities, known as abatement activities, to better protect children and communities from the harmful effects of exposure to dust generated from lead paint. The measure advances President Biden’s whole-of-government approach to protecting families and children from lead exposure and, if finalized, is estimated to reduce the lead exposures of approximately 250,000 to 500,000 children under age six, per year.
“The City of Newark is honored to be selected by the EPA as the location for their important announcement of these new actions to protect Americans everywhere – and especially children – from the dangers of lead in paint,” said Mayor Baraka. “We moved mountains in Newark to remove lead from every water line throughout the city because we value the health and wellbeing of every resident and understand that no amount of lead exposure is acceptable. We are grateful to the EPA and the Biden Administration for strengthening regulations for lead removal and are fully committed to supporting their efforts.”
Aligning with the Federal Action Plan on reducing lead exposure to children, these stronger standards would go further to protect children from its danger, and support the Biden-Harris Administration’s historic investment to reduce lead exposure as well as the EPA’s strategy to address the significant disparities along racial, ethnic and socioeconomic lines.
EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe, EPA Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff and EPA Region 2 Administrator Lisa Garcia announced the proposal alongside elected officials and community leaders in Newark, one of the nation’s leading cities in reducing lead exposure.
“The Biden-Harris Administration is taking a whole-of-government approach to ensuring that the most vulnerable among us—our children—are protected from exposure to lead,” said Ms. McCabe. “This proposal to safely remove lead paint along with our other efforts to deliver clean drinking water and replace lead pipes will go a long way toward protecting the health of our next generation of leaders. I am proud to stand alongside the City of Newark, New Jersey, and all our partners across the United States in our critical efforts to reduce childhood lead exposures.”
“There is no safe level of lead. Even low levels are detrimental to children’s health, and this proposal would bring us closer to eradicating lead-based paint hazards from homes and child care facilities across the U.S once and for all,” said Ms. Freedhoff.
If finalized, the proposed rule would strengthen EPA’s regulations under section 402 of the Toxic Substances Control Act by revising the dust-lead hazard standards (DLHS), which identify hazardous lead in dust on floors and window sills, and the dust-lead clearance levels (DLCL) – the amount of lead that can remain in dust on floors, window sills and window troughs after lead removal activities.
Today’s proposal would reduce the DLHS from 10 micrograms per square foot (µg/ft2) for floors and 100 µg/ft2 for window sills to any reportable level greater than zero in recognition of the fact that there is no level of lead in dust that has been found to be safe for children. Additionally, it would lower the DLCL from 10 µg/ft2 to 3 µg/ft2 for floors, from 100 µg/ft2 to 20 µg/ft2 for window sills, and from 400 µg/ft2 to 25 µg/ft2 for window troughs, which are the lowest post-abatement dust-lead levels that the Agency believes can be reliably and effectively achieved.
Property owners, lead-based paint professionals and government agencies use the DLHS to identify dust-lead hazards in residential and childcare facilities built before 1978. If a lead-based paint activity such as abatement is performed, EPA’s Lead-Based Paint Activities Program requires individuals and firms performing the abatement to be certified and follow specific work practices. Following such an abatement, testing is then required to ensure dust lead levels are below the DLCL before an abatement can be considered complete.
Historically, the EPA’s DLHS and DLCL have been set at the same levels. This action proposes to decouple the DLHS and the DLCL, which were last updated in 2019 and 2021, respectively. This is being done in accordance with a May 2021 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion, which explains that DLHS must be based solely on health factors, while the DLCL must consider the additional factors of safety, effectiveness, and reliability. Today’s proposal aligns the DLHS and DLCL with the best available science, further strengthening EPA’s efforts to protect children from lead hazards.
Although the federal government banned lead-based paint for residential use in 1978, it is estimated that 31 million pre-1978 houses still contain lead-based paint, and 3.8 million of them have one or more children under the age of 6 living there, creating health and developmental risks for children. Lead-contaminated dust is one of the most common causes of elevated blood lead levels in children. Lead dust commonly occurs when lead-based paint deteriorates or is disturbed. Due to normal behaviors such as crawling and hand-to-mouth activities, young children are at particularly at risk of higher exposure to ingesting lead-containing dust. Lead exposure can pose a significant health and safety threat to children and can cause irreversible and life-long health effects, including behavioral problems, lower IQ, slowed growth, and more.
Communities of color and those of lower socioeconomic status are often at greater risk of lead exposure because deteriorated lead-based paint is more likely to be found in lower-income areas. Additionally, communities of color can also face greater risk due to the legacy of redlining, historic racial segregation in housing, and reduced access to environmentally safe and affordable housing. Eliminating lead-based paint and the proposal announced today reflect EPA’s commitment to advancing environmental justice.
“When children are exposed to lead, their health can be irreversibly affected through impacts to their brain and nervous systems and delays in their growth and development,” said U.S. Senator Robert Menendez. “This is why I have fought tirelessly to ensure children across the U.S., and all Americans, are further protected from the dangers of lead exposure, especially those in underserved communities that are more likely to find lead-based paint and dust in their homes and neighborhoods. I applaud the Biden-Harris Administration for strengthening these critical health and safety standards to complement our historic investment of $4 billion to protect children from exposure to lead, and secure a healthier and happier future for them.”
“New Jersey families should not have to worry about lead exposure in their homes and childcare facilities harming their children,” said U.S. Senator Cory Booker. “Lead exposure is an environmental injustice that threatens the health and development of children, often in low-income, Black and Brown communities like mine in Newark. I am grateful to the EPA for taking important steps to keep our children safe.”
“No child in Newark, the Eighth Congressional District, or anywhere in our country should be at risk of lead exposure because of residential and commercial buildings that pre-date modern lead paint regulations,” said U.S. Representative Rob Menendez. “As Newark continues to grow, the EPA’s new lead paint standards will help working families be assured that the homes they live in and the child care facilities they utilize are safe from lead hazards. I applaud the Biden Administration’s commitment to the public health of our communities and our children.”
“I am proud to hear the EPA is taking direct action to protect children from dangerous exposure to lead paint,” said U.S. Representative Donald M. Payne, Jr. “Lead exposure is one of the greatest threats to children’s health across the country. I have been a strong advocate for efforts to reduce children’s exposure to lead, especially in drinking water. I introduced the Test for Lead Act to make sure states had a plan to deal with lead contamination in school drinking water to be eligible for federal drinking water funds. These new standards show that the Biden-Harris Administration has stepped up to reduce children’s lead paint exposure, especially in low-income areas. American families should be able to send their children to schools or childcare facilities that are clean and free of lead contamination.”
“Lead-based paint poses the greatest risk of lead exposure, especially in our most vulnerable communities, where lead-based paint is often found in older or deteriorating buildings,” said Sean Moriarty, Deputy Commissioner for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. “The NJDEP commends and supports the USEPA for this proposal, which in addition to the federal and state investment in Lead Service Line replacement, will go a long way toward protecting the health and safety of New Jersey’s residents.”
“There is no level of blood lead that is safe for children. Lead exposure disproportionately affects young children, causing serious medical and behavioral issues into adulthood. We know that low-income communities and communities of color are most at risk from lead exposure due to systemic inequities,” said Debbie Manns, co-chair, Steering Committee, Lead-Free NJ. “We applaud the USEPA for taking this important step in reducing lead exposure in homes across New Jersey, bringing us closer to ensuring our children are free from lead poisoning.”
The EPA will accept public comments on the proposal for 60 days following publication via docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2023-0231 at www.regulations.gov.
For photographs of the event, visit here.
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