Governor Lamont Signs Legislation Strengthening Childhood Lead Poisoning Standards
(WATERBURY, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont today announced that he has signed into law Public Act 22-49, which will align Connecticut’s standards on childhood lead poisoning with federal standards and help alleviate the risks associated with it. The governor proposed the legislation earlier this year as part of his package of priorities for the legislative session, explaining that the state needs to proactively do a better job of protecting children from lead poisoning.
The governor discussed the importance of the new law today during an event on the topic in Waterbury, a city where 72% of its housing units were built before 1978, making the presence of lead likely now or in the past. Waterbury has embraced the issue of addressing lead in its housing stock over the last few decades by building a strong remediation program that received $5.7 million in 2020 – the largest possible federal grant – to assist in tackling this issue. Speaking in front of two homes that were recently remediated for lead, Governor Lamont emphasized the importance of lead remediation programs like Waterbury’s and a strong partnership between state and local health departments to combat lead poisoning in Connecticut’s children.
“Childhood lead poisoning has catastrophic impacts on health and development, including irreversible learning and developmental disabilities,” Governor Lamont said. “In particular, this problem has most deeply impacted minority families and those who live in disadvantaged communities. For too long, the standards for lead testing and treatment in Connecticut have fallen well behind the best practices, and I am glad we are making these long-overdue updates.”
The newly signed law includes steps that will strengthen early intervention in instances of lead poisoning by gradually reducing the blood lead level that triggers parental notifications and home inspections to more closely align with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and American Academy of Pediatrics. In 2020, 1,024 Connecticut children had a significant enough concentration of lead in their blood that those organizations would have recommended a home inspection. However, Connecticut law required only 178 investigations.
It will also empower the Connecticut Department of Public Health to require more frequent testing of children living in cities and towns where exposure to lead is most common. Those changes will ensure the families of children with unsafe blood lead levels receive appropriate educational materials, the homes of those children are inspected and remediated when appropriate, and the children themselves receive any required care. (More data about the prevalence of elevated lead levels in Connecticut is available here.)
Connecticut Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani, MD, said, “The children being protected by this law are the future, and we need their homes, their schools and the places they are being cared for to be safe. The damages cause by lead are permanent and we have not done what’s in our control to help these young people. Thanks to Governor Lamont, this investment will help local health departments make the changes that will affect the communities that need it the most.”
State Representative Geraldo Reyes (D-Waterbury), chair of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, said, “It was beyond time for Connecticut to more actively address lead poisoning among children, especially as a matter of equity. Lead poisoning affects Black children at twice the rate of white children and Hispanic children at one and a half times the rate of white children. More than half of lead poisoning cases also occur in urban centers like Waterbury that have older housing stock and more rental properties. I was proud to co-sponsor this legislation that passed both chambers with unanimous bipartisan support and applaud Governor Lamont for signing it into law so that Connecticut strengthens its ability for earlier interventions.”
State Representative Jonathan Steinberg (D-Westport), co-chair of the Public Health Committee, said, “Thanks to our partnership with Governor Lamont, we’re finally able to address the long-standing problem of lead poisoning in our state. We’re investing the requisite funds to both identify sources and remediate the problem, protecting the health of our children.”
State Senator Heather Somers (R-Groton), ranking member of the Public Health Committee, said, “This bill is about protecting our most precious commodity – our children. In a bipartisan way, we are finally taking a positive step toward protecting the physical and mental health of young children throughout our state. This bill was a priority, and I was a proud co-sponsor.”
The legislation was approved in the House and the Senate by unanimous votes. It takes effect on January 1, 2023, except for a provision related to a lead poisoning prevention and treatment working group, which is effective upon passage.
In addition to this bill, the budget bill that Governor Lamont signed into law this spring includes $30 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act that will be used for lead case management and remediation. This funding will not only help cover any municipal costs associated with the revised standards, but also help property owners and landlords in vulnerable communities undertake lead abatement and remediation projects before a child is harmed. Those projects will use local contractors.