|HUD No. 21-180
HUD Public Affairs
October 29, 2021
Secretary Marcia L. Fudge and Cleveland Clinic CEO Dr. Tom Mihaljevic Discuss Solutions to National Lead Crisis
Biden-Harris Administration Renews Commitment to Ensuring Healthy Homes for All
WASHINGTON - U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia L. Fudge this week hosted Cleveland Clinic President and CEO Dr. Tom Mihaljevic for a conversation on solutions for solving the nation’s lead poisoning crisis. Secretary Fudge and Dr. Mihaljevic talked about the importance of raising awareness of the harmful and long-term detrimental effects of lead exposure to children, and the disproportional prevalence of elevated blood levels in underserved and communities of color.
“We’re doing our part to make sure that we put people in safer places, and you will find over time, we can show that children that live in HUD properties or those associated with HUD have lower levels because of our inspections and because of our demanding that these issues are taken care of as quickly as possible,” said Secretary Marcia L. Fudge. “We know that this problem, in particular, is a racial equity issue. We know that it affects Black and brown people and poor people so severely that if we don’t raise our voices, no one will. It is so isolated. But as you said, it is also so urgent. We cannot afford to lose thousands and thousands of young people to something that we can stop.”
“What I believe that needs to happen first and foremost is to raise awareness,” said Dr. Tom Mihaljevic. “We’re seeing hundreds of thousands of children in the most disadvantageous communities being essentially deprived of the opportunity to lead a normal and productive life by no fault of their own. We have to recognize that we as a country cannot stand for that. Raising an awareness that this is a problem that we know we can take care of, that this is a problem that this is important, is the first and probably most important step that we need to make.”
The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to ensuring all Americans have access to a safe, healthy, affordable home. For the first time HUD's Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes (OLHCHH) this year made available over $450 million for programs to assess and remediate lead-based paint and other housing-related health hazards, to make safety and functional home modifications and repairs to meet the needs of low-income elderly homeowners, to develop new and improved methods to identify and control residential health hazards, and to mitigate health and safety hazards and make improvements in energy efficiency and comfort. This funding will enable jurisdictions to mitigate the impacts of unhealthy housing, preserve affordable housing, enable older adults to stay in their homes, and to ensure that future generations can reach their full potential.
Today, about 3.3 million U.S. families with a child under age 6 years live in a home with one or more conditions that can expose their child to lead-based paint hazards. Of these homes with a child under age 6, about 2.1 million house families with low income. The critical funding investments, in addition to local partnerships and infrastructure created to make housing units lead-safe will have long lasting impacts. These investments will dramatically shift efforts to identify and eliminate lead hazards before a child is exposed to them.
Below are some video clip highlights of their conversation:
HUD has protected more than 200,000 at-risk young children in communities across our nation by awarding grants to health and housing agencies to fix health and safety hazards present in their families’ homes. HUD also relies on public-private partnerships to pour essential funding for communities most in need. President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda is a critical step in being able to create safer, healthier homes in every corner of our nation.
It is well-documented that people of color and children in poor households are at a markedly higher risk of lead exposure than are majority-white communities due to barriers to accessing safe and affordable housing. HUD’s mission to advance racial equity includes ensuring every family has access to a safe and healthy, lead-free home.
We know too that many communities that have experienced historic disinvestment in school systems, recreation systems, and housing are struggling to keep up with the threat of lead. In particular, poor children and children of color are more frequently introduced to situations where they are prone to lead exposure because of the wilting infrastructure in their neighborhoods and towns. In her conversation with Dr. Mihaljevic, Secretary Fudge reiterates the importance of HUD’s collaboration with local systems in addressing lead poisoning.