Two local lawmakers and Maine’s two U.S. senators are among the political leaders working to either secure additional funding for lead cleanup in Maine or to better protect children from becoming lead poisoned in the first place.

State Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, said he and other policymakers are eager to protect children from lead poisoning and he feels that the best way to do that is to prevent poisoning in the first place.

“I think, rather than treating kids like the canaries in the mine, waiting for them to come in with high levels of lead exposure in their blood after the fact and try and treat them, why shouldn’t we be proactive and try to find those potential exposures before they happen?” Golden asked.

Golden said he hopes to introduce a bill in the Maine Legislature in 2017 that would mimic a law in Rhode Island that requires health care workers who perform home visits for newborn children under that state’s Medicaid program to check for lead hazards in the home.

Maine has a similar newborn program, and Golden said adding the lead check should not add any cost to that program.  

State Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, who served most recently as Senate chairman of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, said he would be open to any ideas from any lawmaker that looks to stop lead poisoning in children. But Brakey also said he had concerns about creating a regulatory environment around lead that may end up doing more harm than good.


“Are we investing a lot of resources in putting people out of their houses, when the population we are concerned with are individuals under the age of 6, young children who are likely to put things in their mouth — paint chips and what have you — and might get lead poisoning? If that’s the population we are primarily concerned about, are we being a little overzealous in doing a lot of unintended harm by having people have to get out of these buildings, even if they don’t have children?” Brakey asked.

He said he would prefer a system that protected children but allowed adults to assess their own risks of lead exposure without overregulating landlords.  

At the federal level, Maine’s U.S. senators are both working on a broad range of policies aimed at lead safety.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has worked to get more federal funds for the type of Housing and Urban Development grants being used in Lewiston-Auburn to clean up lead in rental units. For more than 20 years, Collins has championed cleaning up lead paint in New England and especially in Maine. She’s intimately aware of the issues in Lewiston, and in 1999 even convened a field meeting in Lewiston of a Senate subcommittee that sets the federal budget for HUD.

In a statement issued by her staff, Collins said she intended to continue to advocate for increased funding for lead abatement programs. She said proposals she’s made in a HUD budget bill for 2016 for lead abatement would for the first time in a decade increase funding by $25 million, boosting it from $110 million to $135 million.

It’s a position U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, also supports, although King suggested the increase should be even more. King is working on other legislation, including a measure that would provide a federal income tax credit to homeowners who complete lead cleanup projects, in an attempt to expand lead cleanup beyond multi-unit apartment buildings.

King and Collins also support legislation requiring public housing administered by HUD and rents paid for with Section 8 vouchers to meet the federal CDC standards and a blood-lead level of 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood, similar to Maine’s new standard. HUD currently uses a 15 microgram standard.

“Every parent across the state, including me, has at some point worried about whether toxins like lead in our homes are unknowingly hurting our children. And in order to keep our homes — and kids — safe, we must continue to work to reduce the amount of lead in properties across Maine,” King said.

“But homeowners, landlords and the state can’t do it alone, which is why it’s crucial that federal funding continues to play a significant role in supporting lead abatement efforts in Lewiston-Auburn and across the state,” he said. 

Complete coverage

  • Properties in Lewiston-Auburn that are under a lead paint abatement order.
  • Properties and landlords who have funding to help clean up a lead paint hazard.
  • Reports from the Maine CDC and the city of Lewiston:
    • Information on state and local efforts to protect children from lead poisoning.
    • A 2008 study by a former University of Southern Maine adjunct economics professor on the financial impacts of childhood disease, including lead poisoning, in Maine.

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