A proposed federal bill that would direct $12.5 billion in grants to tackle lead paint problems, along with a recent change in Maine law to test all young children for exposure, both promise to accelerate efforts to clean up homes in high risk areas like Lewiston-Auburn.
Maine, like other Northeast states, has some of the oldest housing in the nation that contains lead, which was banned by the federal government in 1978. Children in Lewiston-Auburn up to age 3 have the highest incidence of lead poisoning in the state. That can affect their brain function and cause behavioral issues, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The biggest risk factor in lead is the poor condition of old housing before 1950,” said Andrew Smith, the Maine state toxicologist. “The issue is primarily dust. Babies crawl on floors and put their hands into their mouths and ingest lead.”
U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat who represents Maine’s 2nd District, on Thursday introduced legislation called the Lead Free Future Act that asks the federal government for $2.5 billion over five years in grants to state and local governments for lead screening, education and abatement. Golden expects the money to cover removal of lead from more than 220,000 U.S. homes annually and the screening of millions more homes.
“Lead poisoning robs thousands of Maine kids of a healthy life, and it costs our communities billions of dollars they desperately need,” Golden said in a statement.