MACDC’s Participation in a Conversation on Eliminating Lead Poisoning

On December 9th, I participated in a half-day “Public Conversation on Eliminating Lead Poisoning in 2022.” Rick Reibstein, a lecturer in BU’s Earth and Environment department, organized the event to bring together individuals who are thinking about ways to combat the presence of lead in our environment. The presence of lead in our environment is a serious public health threat, as any amount of lead in the body can hurt the brain, kidneys, and nervous system, slow down growth and development, make it hard to learn, damage hearing and speech, and cause behavior problems. These problems are particularly harmful to children who absorb lead more easily than adults and who are still growing and developing.  

Rick asked if I’d speak about MACDC’s efforts to secure $100 million in ARPA funding to support a Massachusetts Healthy Homes Initiative (MHHI). We proposed that this $100 million be split between rehabilitating older housing stock and removing lead paint. The presence of lead paint in homes in Massachusetts is a significant problem since over 70% of homes in Massachusetts were constructed before lead paint was banned in 1978. All homes built before 1978 are likely to contain some lead-based paint which can be inhaled or ingested unless steps have already been taken to make them lead-safe or remove that lead paint. We estimated that a $50 million investment would be sufficient to make an additional 2,000 Massachusetts homes lead-safe, preventing developmental delays and other serious health consequences in thousands of children. While our recommendation was not adopted in the state ARPA bill, we were able to identify a number of legislative champions who we hope we’ll be able to call upon to support de-leading funding down the line, including the approximately $2 billion in unspent ARPA funding allocated to Massachusetts.  

In addition to sharing our advocacy efforts, the conference provided an opportunity for me to learn more about the history and politics of federal and state lead laws as well as other efforts to combat lead-poisoning around the state. One of these efforts is An Act Enhancing Justice for Families Harmed by Lead which would hold lead paint manufacturers responsible for the harm knowingly caused by lead. Advocates are additionally working on bills that would ban lead in jewelry, toys, and pottery, that would lower the level at which children are considered to be lead poisoned, that would regulate the presence of outdoor lead paint, and that would address discrimination against families stemming from the current Massachusetts lead law. The conference was an opportunity to bring together people working on addressing the hazards of lead from a variety of vantage points. For me, it was inspiring to learn about these crucial efforts. If you want to check out the event, including my presentation, you can access the recording here.