Sen. Libby introduces bill to reduce lead poisoning rates
A bill sponsored by Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, would reduce lead poisoning rates among Maine children. LD 1116 “An Act To Strengthen the Lead Poisoning Control Act” was the subject of a public hearing in the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday.
Lead poisoning can cause permanent and irreversible injury. Children and their developing brains are especially at risk of damage from exposure to lead. Lewiston and Auburn have the highest rates of lead poisoning in Maine due to a combination of older housing stock and a recent increased attention to the importance of testing for lead poisoning.
“As a doctor, I’ve seen the devastating impact that lead exposure and lead poisoning can have on a growing child,” said Sen. Ned Claxton, D-Auburn, a retired family physician. “If caught early, we can work on a solution, and prevent further damage. If a child is being exposed to lead and it isn’t caught by early testing, the damage to their growing brains and bodies will continue.”
LD 1116 requires that all Maine children be tested for unsafe exposure to lead at ages one year and two years. The bill also increases the lead poisoning prevention fee from 25 cents to 50 cents per gallon of paint to be used for mandated dwelling inspections and mandated orders to remove lead hazards.
Additionally, LD 1116 makes permanent five Environmental Specialist positions created in 2015 that are necessary to the operation of the lead poisoning risk assessment and blood testing program. Finally, the bill changes the year for the state’s goal to eradicate childhood lead poisoning from 2010 to 2030. It requires that a report on progress toward meeting that goal be submitted to the Legislature by Jan. 1, 2025, at the latest
“In research commissioned by MAHC … Maine was found to have the lowest screening rate for childhood lead poisoning in New England,” said Rick Whiting of the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition. “Because there is really no safe blood lead level in children, it is essential that we do everything reasonably possible to prevent it.”
Whiting referred to studies that show that for children poisoned by lead from 2013-2017, each child will lose an average of $723,000 in income over their lifetimes. A total of almost $2 billion.
LD 1116 faces further action in the committee, as well as votes in the Maine House and Senate.