July 18, 2017

Whitehouse Introduces Bill to Protect Children from Lead

Legislation would provide federal tax credits to cover costs of removing dangerous toxin from homes

Washington, DC – With more than 80 percent of Rhode Island children in low-income families living in homes built before the federal government banned consumer uses of lead paint in 1978, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse today introduced legislation to help American families cover the cost of removing lead from their homes.  About one in twenty Rhode Island children under age six has elevated blood lead levels, according to Rhode Island Kids Count.

“The safest place for any child should be their own home,” said Whitehouse, who has a long history of fighting lead contamination.  In 1999, while serving as Rhode Island Attorney General, Whitehouse initiated legal action to hold lead paint manufacturers accountable for the hazards of their products.  “Yet too many older homes are filled with hidden lead hazards that can cause children needless and lasting harm.  These tax credits would give an additional incentive to help get lead hazards out of homes once and for all.”

Lead is a powerful neurotoxin that can have debilitating effects on people of all ages.  In particular, it can severely compromise the behavioral and cognitive development of children.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that over 4 million households nationwide have children who are exposed to high levels of lead.  Despite the widespread contamination of U.S. housing stock, funding for existing federal programs to reduce lead hazards only covered abatement of lead-related risks in 18,600 housing units in 2015. 

“Every child deserves to grow up free from the permanent harm lead exposure can cause,” said Laura Brion, Executive Director of the Childhood Lead Action Project.  “Unfortunately, lead hazards in paint, soil, and drinking water remain a serious threat both here in Rhode Island and across the country.  Senator Whitehouse’s legislation would provide homeowners with more of the resources they urgently need to address to address these hazards and keep kids safe.”

The Home Lead Safety Tax Credit Act of 2017 would dramatically broaden the national response to this critical public health challenge by providing refundable tax credits for homeowners, landlords, tenants, and others to remove lead from homes.  The bill would create a tax credit worth up to $3,000 to cover half the cost of abating lead hazards.  It would also create a smaller tax credit worth up to $1,000 to cover half the cost of steps taken to control—but not completely remove—lead hazards, like sealing in lead paint.  These new tax credits would supplement state and local lead control programs, and would be available to offset costs in households with annual income under $110,000.

“Rhode Island has some of the oldest housing stock in the nation; since lead paint was not banned until 1978, it is more likely to be found in older homes – and lead paint is the most common source of lead exposure to children,” said Barbara Fields, Executive Director of RIHousing.  “RIHousing has worked to reduce lead hazards in thousands of homes, and we are grateful to Senator Whitehouse for his leadership on this issue.”


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