Lead poisoning can cause serious health issues and affect physical and mental development in young children. These can include learning disabilities, lower intelligence, language delays and behavior and hearing problems. Between 2009 and 2014, 467 children were identified as suffering from lead poisoning in Maine, with 97 of those children from the Lewiston-Auburn area. There are likely many more.

Renting a lead-contaminated apartment is like selling an inferior product. I wouldn’t sell a leaky shower door, and I don’t want to rent an apartment that could make tenants sick.

Lead contamination is clearly an issue here in Maine, but one that local organizations, communities, individuals and lawmakers are committed to working on. As chair of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations subcommittee, Sen. Susan Collins recently secured $3.4 million in federal funding to help address lead hazards in housing for low-income families in Maine. Sen. Collins also secured $35 million in increased funding for nationwide lead abatement programs in the current budget year. Her leadership on reducing lead poisoning is a major boost to local efforts and a sign of hope for making all Maine homes safe and healthy.

Because of strong state regulations, homes are safer and fewer children suffer from lead poisoning. However, on the federal level, the Regulatory Accountability Act or RAA (U.S. Senate bill 951, introduced by Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio) would cripple the process for issuing and enforcing regulations that ensure we have clean air and water and public health protections. It would create many loopholes to the rule-making process and places more importance on costs to industry over benefits to the public health. If the RAA passes, federal regulations such as the ones that govern lead abatement would not be implemented, and not every state has a strict state regulation to fall back on.

Every child, in Maine and across the United States, deserves the opportunity to grow to their full, unbridled potential. I acknowledge that when I rent an apartment to family, the property is no longer just a building, but a child’s home. And while I can do my best to prevent Maine children from lead poisoning, we need strong federal regulations to control pollutants that don’t abide by state lines, like carbon and methane.

We need Sens. Collins and Angus King to vote against the Regulatory Accountability Act to ensure that we have the necessary rules in place to keep Maine families safe and healthy.

Rep. Bettyann Sheats represents District 64. She lives in Auburn.

Bettyann Sheats

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