Markey Leads Dems In Call to Protect Children from Lead Poisoning

Letter with 26 lawmakers to CDC decries prevention program shutdown in more than 30 states due to budget cuts, endangering 450,000 children
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In January, the Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the first time in two decades recommended a more protective threshold for determining lead poisoning in America’s children, a move that would mean an additional 200,000 children would be eligible for intervention to protect from the devastating effects of the toxic chemical. However, calls from House Republicans in the budget would lead to the shutdown of the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program in 34 states and could potentially result in children with unsafe levels of lead being denied critical services and treatment, said Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and 26 Democratic House members in a letter sent today to the CDC. Because of language included in the federal budget for fiscal year 2012, the CDC Lead Prevention/Healthy Homes Program has been cut by more than 90 percent ? from $29 million in fiscal year 2011 to $2 million. States have been informed that, after September 1, 2012, the CDC will no longer be able to fund the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. The CDC also is in the process of reducing staffing for the program from 26 to six full time employees.
We understand that these budget decisions have put the agency under great constraints, but we urge, for the purposes of continued education and community outreach, that the CDC does not allow politics to get in the way of adopting a threshold that would protect our nation’s children from a known and often avoidable attack on their health and well-being,” wrote the lawmakers in the letter to CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden.
Lead exposure is especially risky for children six years of age and younger, affecting the nervous system and causing behavioral problems and learning disabilities, seizures and even death. Recent research also has found that lead exposure can impact adults’ memory and hearing and vision, as well as the health safety of pregnant women and their offspring. The threshold for determining lead poisoning recommended by the CDC Advisory Council is essentially the level at which protective actions would be triggered by doctors, health departments and parents for exposed children.
CDC’s lead poisoning prevention program funds state and local health departments to screen children before kindergarten for elevated blood lead levels and helps to ensure that lead-poisoned infants and children receive medical and environmental follow-up.
The text of the letter to the CDC can be found below.