By DeJanay Booth

(CBS Detroit) — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and 19 state attorneys general are calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to strengthen protections against lead poisoning, particularly for children in low-income communities and communities of color.

The coalition said the EPA’s “Draft Strategy to Reduce Lead Exposures and Disparities in U.S. Communities” had a “strong starting point,” however they laid out recommendations on how the agency can be more aggressive with its plan.

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The coalition credited the agency’s draft strategy for identifying government-led approaches to increasing public health protections, addressing legacy lead contamination for communities with the greatest exposures and promoting environmental justice

Additional comments from the coalition identified other measures necessary to strengthen the strategy by targeting hazards posed by lead in drinking water, paint, soils, aviation fuel, air, food, and through occupational and take-home exposures.

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That included:

  • Increasing resources for the enforcement of existing laws relating to lead paint in rental housing and amending existing regulations to require landlords to increase the frequency of inspections of houses with a history of lead paint hazards.
  • Developing proactive policies and standards for hazardous waste sites, drinking water, and other sources of lead exposure that are more protective of health and designed to reduce lead poisoning.
  • Developing aggressive deadlines for tightening standards, developing enforcement policies, and conducting an endangerment determination for lead in aviation gas under the Clean Air Act.
  • Identifying meaningful environmental justice targets to ensure that the communities most in need and the vulnerable are protected.
  • Encouraging inter-agency collaboration and data-sharing with other federal agencies such as HUD, OSHA, FAA, and FDA, and USDA.
  • Pledging allocations of federal funds to replace drinking water service lines containing lead reach struggling and historically marginalized communities.
  • Adopting federal regulations requiring testing of water and remediation of lead service lines and lead plumbing fixtures in public, charter, and private schools, and in childcare centers.
  • Expanding multi-language informational campaigns and blood lead testing programs to address “take-home lead” exposure — lead from work that accumulates on a worker’s clothing and shoes.
  • Developing other specific metrics for achieving and evaluating success in lead reduction.

“We have already seen what lead can do when it gets into the water supply,” Nessel said. “I’m proud to stand with my colleagues in asking the EPAto strengthen its approach to childhood lead poisoning and the ways children can be exposed – not just through the water they drink, but also the very food that they eat, the paint and soil in their homes and daycares, and gasoline in cars driven nearby. Since lead poisoning disproportionately affects low-income children, this is an environmental justice issue that requires expeditious action on the EPA’s part.”

Nessel is joined by attorneys general in New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.

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