A hard-fought battle by a broad coalition of child advocates culminated this week with the announcement of $11 million in new funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for lead poisoning prevention. The awards will go to 30 states and 5 cities.
The funding will help state and local health departments monitor the problem of childhood lead poisoning in their communities and use those data to target resources, such as housing rehabilitation funding, enforcement of housing and health codes, and public and health care provider education campaigns.
The data from the states and cities also provide information to CDC, which maintains a national surveillance system with the blood test results for four million children each year. It is this system that identified children exposed to new sources of lead including toys, cosmetics, and imported pottery.
“Lead poisoning is a preventable tragedy that robs too many children of their future and their full potential. Preventing lead poisoning is a smart investment and a real life saver for many families in Rhode Island and nationwide. Restoring this funding will help improve the health and development of our children and reduce the costs associated with treating lead poisoning,” said U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), who led the charge on Capitol Hill to restore this federal funding as a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.
Congress nearly eliminated CDC’s Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch in 2012 when it reduced its funding from $29 million to $2.5 million. A 2013 study by the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) found that more than half of state and local personnel responsible for providing these services were eliminated following the FY12 cuts.
NCHH rallied advocates, pediatricians, scientists, concerned parents, and many others to restore services for high-risk children. The result has been steady increases in funding from the $2.5 million in FY12 to $10 million in FY13, $15 million in FY14, and most recently $20.5 million in a bill passed by the Senate subcommittee responsible for CDC’s budget.
“This CDC grant is critical to funding the basic activities of lead poisoning prevention and maintaining our surveillance system. These data give us the information we need to protect children before they are exposed and to respond to children who have the disease and need follow-up,” said Robert Vanderslice, Healthy Homes and Environmental Team Lead for the Rhode Island Department of Health.
Lead poisoning remains a significant environmental public health threat affecting over a half-million children annually. The home environment is the main source of lead exposure for children. An estimated 37 million U.S. homes contain lead-based paint; 23 million of these homes pose an imminent threat due to the presence of contaminated soil, dust, and peeling paint. Still more avenues of lead exposure exist from sources such as drinking water, candies, cosmetics, and pottery.
“Just a tiny amount of lead can keep a child from concentrating, reading, and ultimately from graduating. It could be your child, grandchild, or a neighbor’s child,” said Rebecca Morley, executive director of the National Center for Healthy Housing. “We all have a stake in preventing this disease.”
Despite the funding progress, an important set of services have not yet been restored. Historically, the funding for this program enabled state and local agencies to visit the homes of children with lead poisoning. During these visits, health department staff identify the sources of their exposure and connect families to services for removing lead hazards. Advocates are calling for full restoration of the program to the 2011 levels in order to cover these critical services.
“Many children in Chicago continue to be exposed to lead. These CDC funds will help us provide the services to identify and address the most high-risk lead exposures. We need the full restoration of the CDC program to be able to provide the types of services that can truly prevent exposure, which is the necessary step to fully protect our children,” said Dr. Helen Binns, a pediatrician with the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
For more information on CDC’s Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/about/program.htm.
Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release.
Source: National Center for Healthy Housing