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CLS Testimony on Childhood Lead Testing Act

Energy

CLS Testimony on Childhood Lead Testing Act

Date Posted: 
02/19/2019

On January 22, 2019, George Gould of CLS was invited to testify before the PA House Democratic Policy Committee, which consisted of a group of over 20 PA State Representatives from all over the Commonwealth, on the Childhood Lead Testing Act. This is a very important bill regarding childhood lead poisoning in Pennsylvania. It would mandate lead testing of all children in Pennsylvania at one and two years of age, so that prompt treatment can take place as well as prevention of future harm. He pointed out that a large number of children in Pennsylvania are enrolled in Medicaid, 1.2 million and the Childhood Health Insurance Program,CHIP,180,000 and the state is required under these programs to ensure that children are tested for lead at 12 and 24 months. However under CHIP 40 percent of targeted children were not tested at all and under Medicaid 20 percent of targeted children were not tested at all. He emphasized the devastating impact lead poisoning can have on young children, Even at low levels lead poisoning causes intelligent quotient deficiencies, reading and learning disabilities impaired hearing, reduced attention span, hyperactivity and behavior problems. 

Good afternoon.  My name is George Gould and I thank Representative Isaacson and the members of the Democratic Policy Committee for giving me the opportunity testify on the Childhood Lead Testing Act, an important bill concerning lead poisoning in this state.

I am a Senior Attorney at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia.  I have worked in the area of childhood lead poisoning for over 45 years. In the early 1970’s a client came into our office who had brought a house from HUD and about a year later she found out her young child had been lead poisoned. She was sued by the City to remediate the lead paint in the property and I joined HUD in the case who removed it to federal court which held that HUD had violated the implied warrant of habitability in the sale of the property. The case was then settled and she received another property and money damages. I then brought a successful case against HUD regarding the sale of HUD-owned properties, which contained lead-based paint. The federal court enjoined the sale until such time that the lead-based paint was removed in accordance with Philadelphia Health Department regulations. I was also successful in a suit against the Philadelphia Housing Authority regarding the removal of lead-based paint.  I have not only been involved in federal court litigation against HUD and PHA, but also served as a member of the National Task Force on Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction and Financing, which Congress created in Title X of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1992.  I also served as a member of the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) Lead Task Group, and was a member of the Philadelphia Housing and Childhood Lead Poisoning Task Force. As part of the Lead Coalition in Philadelphia, working with PCCY I helped draft the Lead Disclosure Ordinance which requires a lead-safe certification be given to tenants who have children ages 6 or under. This was very important because prior to this we were using children like a canary in the coal mine to determine if there was lead on the property.

Childhood lead poisoning is a very serious problem.  We are all well aware of the devastating impact lead can have on young children.  However, even at very low levels, lead poisoning causes intelligent quotient deficiencies, reading and learning disabilities, impaired hearing, reduced attention span, hyperactivity and behavior problems.  To this date, science has not been able to identity any safe level of lead exposure to children.  The societal costs of childhood lead poisoning are extremely high, including medical treatment, special education and long-term care.  There are other costs that are just as real:  school failure rates, reduction in lifetime earnings, increased crime, even death and the traumatic suffering that the child and the family must endure throughout their lives.

We strongly support the introduction of the Childhood Lead Testing Act by Representative Isaacson. Pennsylvania is third in the country in terms of number of housing units built before 1950, and many of them contain lead-based paint. This puts a large number of children in danger of lead exposure and significant long-term damage to their well-being.

As noted, in 2015 the Pennsylvania Department of Public Health reported that only 28% of children under the age of two were tested for lead. Therefore over 5 percent of over 4,000 children had at least one elevated blood lead test result. As I previously mentioned,  lead exposure can cause devastating harm to young children’s health.

It is important to state that that currently in Pennsylvania large numbers of children are enrolled in Medicaid,1.2 million and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, CHIP 180,00 and the state is require under these programs to ensure that these children are tested for lead at12 and 24 months. However under these programs 40% of targeted children under CHIP are not tested at all and 20% of targeted children under Medicaid are also not tested at all. This must change! 

The Childhood Lead Testing Act would require lead testing of all children in Pennsylvania at one and two years of age, so that prompt treatment can take place as well as prevention of future harm. Health care providers would perform these tests and report elevated blood test results to the Bureau of Family Health. I would note, however, that 28 Pa. C.S.A. § 27.34(b) needs to be revised, as the reporting requirements are set at too high, a blood lead level, 20 ug/dl or greater, or two or more blood lead levels of 15 to 19 ug/dl at least three months apart. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is now using 5 ug/dl or greater to identify children who need case management, and state law should reflect this standard.

In addition the ACT needs to be amended to require that the Health Department report compliance with CMS testing guidelines.

It is also important to state that there are other sources of lead poisoning beside paint. This includes lead service lines and solder which can contaminate drinking water and toys, food, cosmetics, and ceramics. Under the Act, the Department of Public Health must conduct a public education campaign regarding lead poisoning and the requirements of lead testing and its importance.

I thank you for the opportunity to testify on this important issue. We fully support  the Childhood Lead Testing Act. It is very much needed to deal the significant problem of childhood lead poisoning.

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