The Choice: Homelessness Or Poison

We know exactly how to eliminate lead hazards and keep children safe. Yet federal regulations that are supposed to protect these families in any kind of housing, public and private, have lagged far behind.

Feature (NATIONAL)

Bryce Covert
March 24, 2016

Tags: Housing: Discrimination, Lead Poisoning

Organizations mentioned/involved: Health Justice Project


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that there is no safe level of lead for children’s bloodstreams, and it has updated its guidance such that 5 micrograms per deciliter is considered to be elevated and requires intervention. But the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which regulates publicly funded housing, still operates with different criteria that hasn’t been updated since it was released in 1999.
To get intervention — an order that a landlord fix dilapidated housing or the ability to simply pick up and move — a child under the age of six has to have a blood lead level of 20 micrograms or above in a single test or 15 and higher in two tests taken within three months. It’s a problem the agency now says it is starting to try and change, although there are plenty of other loopholes that keep children in lead-tainted homes.
“The science has continued to evolve, the CDC has continued to reduce blood lead levels at which intervention is necessary, and HUD’s regulations have remained in the Bush era,” said Emily Benfer, director of the civil legal aid organization Health Justice Project at Loyola University. “It’s very problematic.”