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Lawsuit Challenges EPA “Lip Service” on Lead Standards


Wednesday, August 24, 2016   

RICHMOND, Va. - New litigation takes the federal Environmental Protection Agency to task for not doing its part to ensure that all children live in safe and healthy environments.

In 2009, several groups petitioned the EPA to update standards for lead dust and the definition of lead-based paint. The agency agreed that the current standards were not sufficiently protective, but action has stalled.

Earthjustice attorney Hannah Chang is representing eight groups in a lawsuit filed today, requesting that the agency be forced to follow through.

"In light of the significance of the problem and the fact that lead poisoning really is entirely preventable, this is something they have to move on," she said. "They can't just pay lip service to the fact that it's a priority. They actually have to make progress on this."

The most common cause of lead poisoning in children is ingesting household dust that contains lead, usually deteriorating lead-based paint. Chang said that about 64 million homes in the United States may contain lead-based paint that could be hazardous if not properly managed.

United Parents Against Lead in Virginia is among the groups that are part of the litigation. The group's founder and director, Queen Zakia Shabazz, said it's a matter personally important to her, as her son suffered lead poisoning 20 years ago.

"To see that the standards haven't changed since then - children are still very much at risk, children are still being poisoned - and the fact that EPA is an agency that's put in place to protect our environment, we need to start enforcing those," she said.

Chang said lead poisoning is silent and linked to learning deficits, cognitive disorders, hyperactivity and behavioral problems in children.

"As if that were not devastating enough," she said, "it is well established that lead exposure has a disproportionate impact on low-income communities and a disproportionate impact on communities of color."

In 2011, the EPA released a draft approach for developing a residential lead-dust hazard standard. However, the lawsuit alleges that no other action has been taken.

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