Take the Lead Against Lead Poisoning
NOVEMBER 19, 1997

Thank you Mrs. Sauser for sharing your story with us today. As we talk about various health issues, there is nothing as powerful as putting an individual human face to an issue that confronts us all. Your advocacy on this issue is undoubtedly improving the health of children all over America. And thank you to Jonathan and Cameron for being brave enough to come here today and stand up before us to help us all better understand the effects of lead poisoning.

I know -- both as a parent and as a resident who has dealt with environmental hazards in the home -- that lead poisoning is a major childhood environmental disease. The statistics you've heard today are startling -- potentially 3.8 million dwellings at risk and nearly 1 million poisoned children. That's nearly 5% of children aged 1-5 who suffer from lead poisoning.

Consider the consequences: we know that lead poisoning reduces IQ, attention span and reading and learning ability. It also stunts growth, affects hearing and causes a host of developmental difficulties. We also know that our children need not suffer from this disease and its effects.

Most children are poisoned by lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust and soil found in older, dilapidated housing. Among low-income children living in such housing, 16% suffer from lead-poisoning. For African-American children living in these conditions, the rate is an astonishing 22%.

That's why I am pleased to join Secretary Cuomo of HUD and Administrator Browner of EPA in promoting the "Take the Lead Against Lead Poisoning" campaign. The campaign targets three major activities to address this lead-poisoning in our nation's children:

First, I am pleased to announce on behalf of the Administration $50 million in new federal grants awarded by HUD to states, counties and cities for their use in promoting lead hazard control initiatives.

Specifically, this money will go to helping remove lead-based paint in housing built prior to 1978, when lead-based paint was outlawed. The grants specifically target low income areas, which are particularly hard hit. Mayor Schmoke has told us about one such effort which has proven to be an unqualified success.

The federal assistance program was originally started in 1991 to ensure that qualified, state-certified contractors and inspectors would be available so that lead-based hazard control work would be done safely. In 1991, only one state had such a licensing law. Today, 34 states have such laws, as the result of the federal grants being linked to the enactment of such legislation.

Funds can also be used for blood testing of young children, inspection and testing of homes for lead hazards, temporary relocation of families during lead control work, community education and outreach, and collection and analysis of data on lead hazards.

For example, in Los Angeles, more than 4,000 children under the age of six have been identified as having elevated lead levels in their blood. L.A. also contains nearly 800,000 pre-1978 housing units that are likely to contain lead-based paint. The $2.9 million allocated to L.A. in grant assistance will be used to support the city's Neighborhood Recovery and Preservation Program which will target 15 low income communities containing more than 40,000 children for lead hazard removal.

In Houston, HUD's $2 million grant will be matched by more than $800,000 in local funds to benefit the 12% of Houston children who have been identified as having elevated blood lead levels. The project will be led by the Houston Department of Health and Human Services and will provide employment opportunities to a program that trains unemployed people in lead abatement skills.

The problem of lead-based paint is not just an urban problem, as Mrs. Sow-zer's story demonstrates. To assist throughout the state, New Hampshire will receive $2.7 million for the promotion of statewide lead hazard reduction -- from screening children in Nashua to operating a pilot program in Manchester that features lead-poisoning prevention and education outreach.

Mrs. Sauser pointed out that if she had only known about the peril of lead-based paint she might have been able to save her children from being poisoned. That is where the second component of this campaign comes in. Today, we are unveiling a new public education campaign which will feature public service announcements like the ones you see here, along with educational materials, videos featuring Sesame Street characters and other materials created to alert parents to this danger.

Working in partnership with the private sector, we have the help of organizations such as the Consumer Federation of America, Sears, Lowes, Home Depot, Ace Hardware, the National Association of Management Agents and the National Realtors Association in our efforts to get this vital information out to consumers and parents.

Finally, as Administrator Browner discussed, HUD and EPA have joined forces to further efforts to ensure compliance with disclosure rules announced last year. To help home-buyers, renters, sellers and landlords determine what their rights and obligations under the law are, we are announcing the establishment of a toll-free number -- 1-800-424-LEAD -- which will serve as an information clearinghouse on this issue for people around the nation.

It is my hope that, through this campaign, we will be able to reduce the number of homes that contain lead. Most of all, it is my hope that our coordinated efforts will ensure that no family has to experience what Mrs. Sauser and her children have endured.

This Administration has worked hard for America's families. We have made the single largest investment in children's health care since 1965, providing health insurance for up to 5 million uninsured children. If we can keep one million children from suffering from lead-poisoning in the first place by the simple act of removing lead-based paint hazards and educating Americans everywhere, we can continue our progress on behalf of our children's health. Like all good solutions -- this one is simple. Let's take the lead against lead-based paint. Thank you for joining us in this fight.

More Speeches by Mrs. Gore

Partnership for Central American Reconstruction

Take the Lead Against Lead Poisoning

National Conference On Preventing

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