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Health officials in New York City banned the use of high content lead paint on indoor surfaces in 1989. However, dangerous buildings containing levels of lead were generally built before World War II. It is in such older buildings that a child gains access to paint which contains high levels of lead.
Nationally, it is estimated that 2.5 million children live in such old, substandard housing which is typical of a lead hazard environment. The Surgeon General has estimated that approximately 400,000 have a lead blood level which he has defined as excessive, and recent statistics have indicated that between 50,000 and 100,000 of these children may have so much lead in their bodies that they require medical care.
Because of the tragic proportions and needlessness of this disease, I strongly support this legislation which would insure a continuing strengthening effort to eradicate the tragic and preventable disease, lead-based paint poisoning.
Senator KENNEDY. This has been a continuing health issue on which Senator Schweiker and I have worked closely together. I remember that we appeared before the Banking and Currency Committee on how we could have HUD and HEW play more effective roles in leadership
Obviously, HEW and HUD as well have done this, and that is why we are particularly glad to have their appearance here this morning.
We will have as our first witness Mr. Harold B. Finger, Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology of the Department of Housing and Urban Development; and I hope he will be kind enough to introduce his associates.
STATEMENT OF HAROLD B. FINGER, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR
RESEARCH AND TECHNOLOGY, DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
Mr. FINGER. Mr. Chairman, members of the subcommittee, Senator Schweiker, I would like to introduce Dr. Irwin H. Billick, who is with me and who has been devoting all his time to this area that we also consider very important; an area, that needs effort and in which I think we can make great forward strides.
I am pleased to be here today to report to you on the status of the activities of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in meeting its responsibilities under the Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention Act.
To start, I should emphasize our feeling that among all of the complex and difficult problems we face in our communities, the problem of lead-based paint poisoning is one of the few that can be carefully analyzed and, I believe, can eventually be solved.
I have described this problem as one of the few that is boundable because we can define its causes, understand the factors influencing it, and define methods of solution.
Specifically, (1) if children now suffering from high lead levels can be identified and treated; (2) if buildings in which existing leadbased paint presents a hazard can be identified; (3) if that existing hazard can be controlled; and (4) if new hazards can be kept from arising, including avoidance of the continued application of paint having hazardous lead levels.
If these things can be done, then the problem can be solved.
I believe these things can be done. But they cannot be done by any one sector of government, industry, labor or citizen or community groups working alone.
The work must be done by collaborative efforts among all with strong State and local initiative. The Federal role must also be well coordinated.
It is for that reason that the Federal activities, in which we are involved, include full cooperation with the Health Services and Mental Health Administration, the Food and Drug Administration, and other agencies of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, the National Bureau of Standards of the Department of Commerce, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
We have also asked for assistance from ACTION and the National Center for Voluntary Action because the voluntary effort of many people and organizations in our communities may be an essential element of dwelling inspection and removal of the hazard, and the means by which warning is given to people who live in potentially hazardous dwellings.
We also have worked with the paint industry and have found the industry association—the National Paint and Coatings Associationto be concerned about this problem.
As we present the results of some of our work, I think you that the technological developments that have been made in paint production by the industry itself offer real promise for elimination of this hazard in new paint.
Obviously, the first of these points, identifying and treating children who have high lead levels, is a problem that falls more appropriately within the responsibilities and capabilities of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.
We have turned to them for analysis and action in this area, although our model cities programs, designed at local level, are helping in the identification of children suffering from high lead levels.
During my discussion today, I will emphasize the second, third, and fourth items that relate more specifically to HUD's areas of competence and broad responsibilities; that is, to the problems associated with the housing
I would like first to review the actions we have taken to implement the responsibilities assigned to us under title III of the Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention Act, which was signed in January 1971, a little over a year ago.
Under the terms of the act, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in consultation with the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, was specifically directed to develop and carry out a demonstration and research program to determine the nature and extent of the problem of lead-based paint poisoning in the United States; and the methods by which lead-based paint can most effectively be removed from interior surfaces, porches, and exterior surfaces, to which children may be commonly exposed.
The act also specifically directs the Secretary of HUD to submit to the Congress a full and complete report on his findings along with recommendations for a program for the elimination of lead-based paint poisoning
I must, at this time, Mr. Chairman, apologize for the delay in the submission of this report at the time specified by the Act. The report is essentially complete and has gone through several drafts. However, we have been overwhelmed by the amount of information which we have had to generate and assemble which pertains to the nature, the extent, and the elimination of this problem. Much of what I will be discussing with you today is taken directly
I from the preliminary drafts of the report but we need some more time to complete the report.
Senator KENNEDY. Can you give us an idea when it will be available?
Mr. FINGER. I expect that it should be at the end of this month, Mr. Chairman.
Senator KENNEDY. It is the 6th now. Is it going to take 3 more weeks?
Mr. FINGER. Yes; it will take that time for the preparation and review of the report.
In addition to the specific mandates of the act, the Department also has used its other operating program resources, for example, model cities, public housing modernization funds, and Project Rehab to effectively carry out programs aimed at the elimination of lead-based paint poisoning
And as Senator Schweiker has indicated, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has also established a limit of 1 percent lead for the paint used in federally assisted housing, and that requirement has been carried out by establishment of a management circular to all of our offices and all of those people involved in federally-assisted housing, notifying them of that requirement.
We have also used our broad research authority to go beyond the specific research mandate contained in the legislation. For example, our program includes research in methods of detection of lead-based paint hazards.
As recognized by the act, we were dealing with a problem which involves an intertwining of housing and health issues. Therefore, a very close working relationship has been established with the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in developing and carrying out the requirements of the act.
The two Departments have signed a formal memorandum of understanding which has established
the guidelines for cooperation in the development of policy, programs, standards, and methods for carrying out their respective responsibilities under the act.
We recognized that to implement our responsibility under the act, we had to have available a technical competence experienced in the disciplines involved. We, therefore, developed an agreement in June 1971, with the National Bureau of Standards of the Department of Commerce to carry out certain functions under our overall direction using research funds provided by HUD.
The first task assigned to the Bureau includes obtaining an estimate of the national scope of the problem, the number of children who may be affected, and the number of dwelling units that present an immediate lead-based paint poisoning hazard.
Another task is concerned with an evaluation of the various available and proposed methods for the detection of lead in existing dwelling units.
Following this evaluation, the Bureau is to recommend the most suitable inspection methods and is to propose any research that is needed to improve those methods.
A third task is the identification and evaluation of the technology that is available for the elimination of lead-based paint poisoning hazard from dwelling units. Although the wording of the act specifically directs our research to methods by which lead-based paint can most effectively be removed from interior surfaces, it appears that there are other methods—for example, coverings—which Mr. Chairman, you referred to in your opening statement, which may be used for the elimination of the hazard.
We have, therefore, interpreted the wording of the law more broadly and we feel more in keeping with the intent of Congress.
In this task too we have asked the Bureau to make recommendations on research that may be needed to improve upon current technology for the elimination of the hazard from dwelling units.
In October of last year, we added a fourth task to our agreement with NBS. This task required the Bureau to conduct a preliminary screening survey to develop a program for analysis of the lead content of paint sold for residential use.
In the course of this screening survey, 198 samples of paint have already been analyzed and about 200 more are to be analyzed.
I plan to summarize the major results of these tasks during my testimony. I have brought with me copies of the reports which the Bureau has submitted to us in carrying out these tasks. These documents, along with the great deal of other literature which is available on the subject of lead-based paint poisoning, are serving as the basis for the report which we are preparing for submission to the Congress.
In addition, the material which is contained in many of these reports will be useful to the technical people at State level and in the local communities who have responsibility for the actual implementation of programs for the elimination of the lead-based paint hazard.
If the committee wishes, we can leave these reports for your detailed consideration or for the record of these hearings. It should be recog; nized, however, that some of these are preliminary task reports, and revisions may be made in the final reports.
In determining the nature and extent of the problem of lead-based paint poisoning, it is clear that the problem occurs primarily in preschool children living in old dwellings where lead-based paint is available and where it is actually ingested.
This generally defines conditions in older parts of our cities and in our ghetto areas, and some available data indicate it also occurs in small cities and towns.
In defining the current extent of the problem, therefore, it is necessary to match the number of housing units with peeling paint, or with paint that can easily be mouthed by children, with the number of preschool children in such households who may eat nonfood substances.
In arriving at some estimate for the number of housing units in which a lead paint hazard may exist, it has frequently been said that the hazard exists only in detriorating housing built before 1940. However, there are data that indicate that significant amounts of lead paint
were still being used after that date; 1940 represents the start of a sharp decrease in the use of leaded pigments.
It was in about 1940 that titanium dioxide began to replace white lead as a major pigment component of most interior paints. An analysis of the limited available historical data concerning the production and sales of paint indicates that titanium dioxide production did not exceed lead pigment production until after World War II, and the major drop in lead pigment production came after 1950.
There is some other limited direct evidence, obtained in Houston, Tex., that relates the amount of lead on the walls to the age of the house; these data indicate that the amount of lead in the paint in homes built after 1940 is not insignificant.
Although it appears that relatively few houses built after 1950 have significant lead levels, we cannot conclude that leaded paint is entirely absent from surfaces accessible to children even after that time.
Very crude analysis conducted by NBS indicates that there may be as many as 7 million housing units that offer a present hazard; that is, they are deteriorating or old houses with lead paint. The total number of houses that may have interior lead paint, many of which are still in good condition and, therefore, do not appear to offer a present hazard, is approximately 30 million. These numbers are very coarse estimates, particularly the estimate of presently hazardous units, but they are the best we now have. We will be trying to define them more accurately, and the broad annual housing survey that we are now starting with the Bureau of Census will include questions that should help us to define the numbers of units that are deteriorating, more accurately than we have been able to do in the past. It will, therefore, give us a better indication of how many units do offer a lead hazard.
Of the 17.1 million urban children 6 years old or younger, it is estimated that 2.5 million live in older, substandard homes which are typical of a lead hazard environment.
I emphasize here these are urban children, living in the SMSA's which are characterized as having central cities larger than 50,000 population; we do have data to indicate that smaller cities also have a potential problem in this area.
This estimate is drawn from analysis of the 1970 census data.
Mr. FINGER. The data seem to indicate a far lower susceptibility in rural areas, but a lead hazard environment still does exist there.
Senator KENNEDY. I was thinking of Appalachia, some of the deprived areas.
Mr. Finger. Many of those homes, Mr. Chairman, are not even painted, and some of them, if they have been painted, were painted with paints that never had lead in them, because leaded paint has been a high-quality paint. It is not an inferior paint by any means.
Nevertheless, the data we have indicates that it still may occur there, but at a much lower frequency; and we have not been able to pin down definitely where it occurs.
Senator KENNEDY. Is it not, of course, possible that is true because of the inexperience perhaps of hospitals in rural communities to be able to diagnose this as well ?
You find so many of these problems are never discovered in rural America because there is perhaps a smaller population, but also