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New York group challenges EPA on lead

Aug 25, 2016 1:11 pm

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Mary Kuhlman is reporting for Public News Service that new litigation takes the federal Environmental Protection Agency to task for not doing its part to ensure that all children live in safe and healthy environments.

In 2009, several groups petitioned the EPA to update standards for lead dust and the definition of lead-based paint. The agency agreed that the current standards were not sufficiently protective, but action has stalled.

Earthjustice attorney Hannah Chang is representing eight groups in a lawsuit filed today, requesting that the agency be forced to follow through.

"In light of the significance of the problem and the fact that lead poisoning really is entirely preventable, this is something they have to move on," she said. "They can't just pay lip service to the fact that it's a priority. They actually have to make progress on this."

The most common cause of lead poisoning in children is ingesting household dust that contains lead, usually deteriorating lead-based paint. Chang said about 64 million homes in the United States may contain lead-based paint that could be hazardous if not properly managed.

In New York, "We ACT" is one of the environmental groups in the litigation. Cecil Corbin-Mark, its deputy director, said children and families are exposed to lead dust all the time, especially in low-income housing. He said landlords often don't follow protocols when buildings are under construction.

"They are not doing anything to contain the dust from those repairs," he said. "They're not notifying tenants that those repairs are going to take place and that they will cause dust in their apartments. They're not taking appropriate measures, like using certified contractors to make those kinds of repairs."

Chang said lead poisoning is silent and linked to learning deficits, cognitive disorders, hyperactivity and behavioral problems in children.

"As if that were not devastating enough," she said, "it is well established that lead exposure has a disproportionate impact on low-income communities, and a disproportionate impact on communities of color."

In 2011, the EPA released a draft approach for developing a residential lead-dust hazard standard. However, the lawsuit alleges no other action has been taken.