Childhood lead poisoning

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It is great news that the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development has adopted a new rule lowering the acceptable blood level of lead poisoning in children who reside in federally owned or assisted housing. HUD had allowed an antiquated standard that was four times the level now recommended by the Center for Disease Control.

Children under the age of six with lead exposure may suffer decreased IQ, learning disabilities, speech delay, hearing impairment, hyperactivity, etc. Not only is this catastrophic for a child and family but it can result in permanent disability with massive expense to the taxpayers for special education and lifelong supports.

The local legislative delegation and the Maine Legislature deserve credit for being leaders in adopting the new CDC standard in Maine, and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins deserves credit as well for pressing HUD to adopt the most-up-to-date CDC standard nationally.

Maine has some of the oldest housing in the nation and properties constructed before 1978 typically have lead-based paint. Even if it has been painted over several times, the paint can peel or flake and lead dust can reach unsafe levels. The lead also has a sweet taste and small children may be attracted to eat the paint chips.

It is important for everyone to be vigilant in protecting against the dangers of lead poisoning through constant monitoring and by following lead-safe renovation practices (which are required by law).

Richard Whiting, executive director, Auburn Housing Authority

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