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Attorney General Josh Stein Calls for Stronger Protections Against Childhood Lead Poisoning

For Immediate Release:
Friday, March 18, 2022

Nazneen Ahmed (919) 716-0060

(RALEIGH) Attorney General Josh Stein called on the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to strengthen protections against lead poisoning, particularly for children living in low income communities and communities of color. Lead is a highly toxic metal and it’s estimated that children in nearly 4 million households across the country are exposed to high levels of lead.

“I’m pleased that the EPA is taking steps to better protect our children against lead poisoning, which can have devastating effects on their growth and development,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “But there’s still more we can and must do to strengthen protections against lead because there’s nothing more important than keeping our kids safe.”

A 2021 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics suggested that more than half of all U.S. children have detectable levels of lead in their blood, and these elevated blood lead levels were closely related to poverty, race, and living in older housing. Children who have been exposed to even very low levels of lead are at risk for neurological and physical problems during critical stages of early development. In fact, no safe lead level in children has been identified. Children under six are more likely to be exposed to lead than any other age group, because they are more likely to chew lead paint chips, breathe in or swallow dust from old lead paint that gets on living areas, or otherwise be exposed through soil, food, and other consumer products.

In their comments, Attorney General Stein and 18 other attorneys general credit the EPA for identifying government-led public health strategies and addressing public health and lead contamination concerns, but also ask the EPA to strengthen its approach by:

  • Increasing resources for the enforcement of existing laws relating to lead paint in rental housing and requiring landlords to more frequently inspect houses with a history of lead paint hazards.
  • Developing proactive policies and standards for hazardous waste sites, drinking water, and other sources of lead exposure that are more protective of health and designed to reduce lead poisoning.
  • Identifying meaningful environmental justice targets to ensure that the communities most in need and vulnerable are protected.
  • Allocating federal funds to replace drinking water service lines containing lead that reach struggling and historically marginalized communities.
  • Adopting federal regulations requiring testing of water and remediation of lead service lines and lead plumbing fixtures in school and childcare centers.
  • Expanding multi-language informational campaigns and blood lead testing programs to address exposure from lead that accumulates on a worker’s clothing and shoes.

Attorney General Stein is joined in submitting these comments by the Attorneys General of New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.

A copy of the comments is available here.


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