Sen. Tina Smith

Sen. Tina Smith

Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) is leading a Senate effort to reduce the risk children who live in federally subsidized housing are exposed to due to lead. 

Smith, along with several Senate colleagues introduced the “Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act,” to require the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to adopt prevention measures and update rules to protect children from lead exposure. 

“A family should never have to choose between affordable housing and their children’s safety,” said Smith. “Yet our current housing policies put children at risk for lead poisoning by failing to properly screen for lead in advance, and by punishing families who choose to move out of unsafe housing. We know that any lead exposure is too much for children, and this bill ensures that our housing laws protect them and their families.” 

In 1978, the United States banned lead-based paint from being used in housing. However, Smith said thousands of units of federally subsidized housing in Minnesota were built prior to that year, potentially putting thousands of Minnesota children at risk of lead exposure. 

Smith said that since the enactment of federal lead policies in the 1990’, lead poisoning rates have fallen dramatically, but lead poisoning risks continue to disproportionally impact minority children who live in federally subsidized housing because of outdated and ineffective federal laws and regulations.   

The problem can be costly. Left unaddressed, lead poisoning can cause irreversible and long-term health, neurological, and behavioral damage in children. Children with lead poisoning require ongoing medical treatment and special education services, and studies have demonstrated the profound impact of childhood lead poisoning on outcomes such as school graduation rates. 

The proposed legislation would require more stringent risk assessments or to identify lead hazards before a family moves into a housing unit, allow families to relocate without losing housing assistance if lead is identified in a home and the landlord fails to control the hazard within 30 days and requiring landlords to disclose the presence of lead if found in the home. 

Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tim Scott (R-SC), Bob Menendez (D-NJ),  Todd Young (R-IN), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH), joined Smith in introducing the May 21 legislation.   

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