The leading public health agency of the federal government, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just made a welcome decision to protect children from lead poisoning. Responding to a decades-long effort by health advocates and physicians, the CDC says it will change its definition of what constitutes an elevated level of lead in a child’s blood, so hundreds of thousands more children with potential lead-related health problems will be eligible for help from federally funded state and local health agencies. This help includes medical attention, but even more importantly (since lead poisoning is irreversible), helps to reduce future exposure.
But thanks to Congress, the CDC decision is a bittersweet one. Congress cut CDC’s total lead poisoning prevention budget from $30 million to about $2 million, meaning there is no money for state and local agencies that could help kids with elevated lead levels (meanwhile, the Pentagon is paying $771 million just for the “cost overruns” on one weapons system, the unproven F-35 “stealth” fighter plane. But fancy planes are way cooler than lead-poisoned kids).
For years CDC, like other federal and state agencies, has been clear that “no safe level of lead exposure has been identified“. This is because tiny amounts of lead can damage the developing brain, causing learning disabilities and behavioral problems. CDC’s policy change is intended to provide government help for families in preventing lead exposures. But with the drastic funding cuts, those families will be left to fend for themselves.
You can help end this tragic situation. Tell your Senator to take action to keep federal dollars coming to protect kids from lead. Call the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121, ask for your Senator’s office, and ask for the staff person who handles health issues. Tell them you are urging the Senator to push to restore federal lead poisoning prevention funding to the CDC and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).