On June 27, Representatives Don McEachin (D-VA) and John Faso (R-NY) introduced the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2018. This bill requires landlords of federally-funded housing units built before 1978 where children under the age of six will or may reside to conduct thorough risk assessments for lead-based paint hazards. In addition, landlords would be required to provide a means for families to relocate without penalty if a lead hazard is not controlled in 30 days, and to disclose the presence of lead hazards found in the home. The Arc supports this legislation to reduce exposure to lead which is known to contribute to learning and developmental disabilities.
On June 26, the House Committee on Financial Services’ Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance will hold a hearing on “Oversight of the Federal Government’s Approach to Lead-Based Paint and Mold Remediation in Public and Subsidized Housing.” The hearing will examine how HUD remedies unsafe living conditions. Exposure to high levels of lead increases the risk for learning and developmental disabilities in children. This hearing follows the release of two reports last week: the Government Accountability Office, “Lead Paint in Housing: HUD Should Strengthen Grant Processes, Compliance Monitoring, and Performance Assessment” and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Office of the Inspector General, “HUD Lacked Adequate Oversight of Lead-Based Paint Reporting and Remediation in Its Public Housing and Housing Choice Voucher Programs“. Visit the Committee web site for more information.
On January 16, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published a new rule to ensure a quicker response when young children living in federally owned or assisted housing experience elevated levels of lead in their blood. The rule lowers the Department’s threshold of lead considered safe in a child’s blood to match the more protective guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 20 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (µg/dL) to 5. It also establishes more comprehensive testing and evaluation procedures for the housing where such children reside. Childhood lead poisoning has long been documented as causing reduced intelligence, low attention span, and reading and learning disabilities, in additional to behavioral challenges. Read HUD’s new rule here.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on December 13, 2016 provided insight into the degree of harm to babies from exposure to the Zika virus in pregnancy. In the study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state health department scientists report:
- 6% of babies from pregnancies with Zika virus infection have one or more birth defects; 11% if the mother was infected during the first trimester of the pregnancy.
- The proportion of pregnancies with birth defects was similar for pregnant women who did or who did not have symptoms, about 6% in each group.
- Most of the affected babies in the study had the well-recognized microcephaly, but some had other structural brain differences.
On Sept 23, the Congressional Public Health Caucus sponsored a briefing, “Public Health 101 – Zika: A Case Study in Emergency Response across the Public Health Continuum.” The briefing brought together experts working on the frontlines of the public health continuum to mitigate this public health emergency – from Zika virus surveillance, to vaccine research & development, to maternal, fetal and child health, to supporting individuals with disabilities and their caregivers. The speakers were Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA); Phyllis Arthur, Managing Director for Infectious Diseases and Diagnostics Policy, Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO); Janet Hamilton, Surveillance Section Administrator, Florida Department of Health; Dr. Edward R.B. McCabe, Chief Medical Officer, March of Dimes; Dr. Laura E. Riley, Vice Chair, Obstetrics, Massachusetts General Hospital Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine; and Nancy J. Murray, President, The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh at ACHIEVA. There over 19,000 cases of Zika in the U.S and territories with over 2,000 cases among pregnant women. See the latest figures here.
After months of hearings, deliberation, and debate, the House passed ameasure to address the Zika outbreak. The $1.1 billion package includes: $476 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for mosquito control, $230 million to the National Institutes of Health for vaccine development, $165 million to the State Department and the US Agency for International Development to respond to outbreaks overseas, and $86 million for emergency response research through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. The package is offset by about $750 million from unspent Ebola funds and funds for the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges in U.S. territories, in addition to another $100 million from the Department of Health and Human Services administrative fund. The measure is strongly opposed by Democrats due to the low funding amount, the offsets, and policy riders on environmental regulations and contraception for women at risk for the Zika virus. The Senate may vote on the package this week, though they appear to not have the 60 votes needed to overcome procedural obstacles. President Obama has already indicated his intent to veto the bill.
On June 7, the Senate passed the legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act that passed the House on May 24th. The bill now heads to the President’s desk, where he is expected to sign it. The Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (HR 2576) will regulate chemicals so that they no longer present unreasonable risks of injury to health or environment. In recent years, many chemicals commonly used in every day products have been linked to increased risks for learning and developmental disabilities as well as cancer, infertility, and obesity. While the legislation contains reforms that should enable the EPA to tackle the worst chemicals, it falls short of what public health advocates have sought. Read a fact sheet on the bill here and learn more at chemical safety here.
The House passed a new version of the Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (HR 2576) on May 24. This bill would regulate chemicals so that they no longer present unreasonable risks of injury to health or the environment. In recent years, many chemicals commonly used in every day products have been linked to increased risks for learning and developmental disabilities as well as cancer, infertility, and obesity. If the Senate passes the bill, it will be the first major environmental legislation to pass Congress since the mid-1990s. While the legislation contains reforms that should enable the Environmental Protection Agency to tackle the most dangerous chemicals, it falls short of what public health advocates have sought. Learn more at http://saferchemicals.org/.
The National Safe and Healthy Housing Coalition is holding a webinar to launch Find It, Fix It, Fund It: a Lead Elimination Action Drive on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 at 1:00 pm, EDT. The drive has four components: a National Roundtable to develop new policies and promote legislation and administrative advocacy; a Policy Workgroup focused on federal funding; a Grassroots Workgroup; and a Media Outreach Workgroup. Participants will have the opportunity to provide input and sign up for the drive’s components. Registerhere.
On May 18, the House passed a freestanding $622 million funding bill, the Zika Response Appropriations Act (H.R. 5243), to address the Zika virus. The costs for this supplemental spending bill are fully offset by using $352 million in “unobligated” money for the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and $270 million in “unused administrative funding” from the Department of Health and Human Services. Funds would be allocated for fiscal year 2016, which means they could be used during the next five months. The Senate followed suit on May 19 by passing a two-bill spending measure (H.R. 2577) that includes a $1.1 billion agreement on responding to the Zika virus for four months. Passage of bills with such significant differences in the amount of funding promises a complicated conference process between the House and Senate. Public health and disability advocates are seeking amounts closer to the President’s request of $1.9 billion which may have to play out over time with additional spending bills.