EPA's Inaction Made Way for Lead Poisoning in Children, Lawsuit Claims

The most common cause of lead poisoning in children is lead dust from deteriorating lead-based paint. (Photo: Gregory Roberts)The most common cause of lead poisoning in children is lead dust from deteriorating lead-based paint. (Photo: Gregory Roberts)

Environmental justice and public health groups are demanding that the federal government update regulations and expand efforts to protect young children from lead poisoning, which can cause irreversible cognitive and behavioral problems and tends to be more common in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

In a lawsuit filed on Wednesday, a coalition of groups asked a federal court in California to mandate that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) update its standards for assessing dangerous levels of lead dust on surfaces in homes and residential buildings, especially those built before 1978, when regulators began restricting the amount of lead in lead-based paints.

In 2009, the EPA granted a citizens’ petition to update its lead dust standards and agreed to initiate rulemaking proceedings, after new scientific evidence showed that existing standards were inadequate for protecting children from lead poisoning. However, seven years have passed and the agency has yet to set new rules.

“EPA’s outdated standards and lack of enforcement let lead remain hidden and silent, causing irreversible brain damage, learning disabilities and reduced IQ in children,” said Queen Zakia Rafiqa Shabazz, mother of a son with lead poisoning and founder of United Parents Against Lead, in a statement. “We as parents want to protect our children but we can do little against an invisible enemy. A child is a terrible thing to waste.”

In a recent report, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said the EPA’s current standards provide only “an illusion of safety.” The group said that most existing lead paint standards used by regulators, federal housing officials and home renovators fail to protect children because, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) most recent findings, there is no safe level of lead exposure for…

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