Dr. Ben Carson
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Remarks Announcing Federal Lead Action Plan
December 19, 2018
As prepared for delivery. The speaker may add or subtract comments during his presentation.
Thank you very much, Acting Administrator Wheeler, for your warm welcome—and thank you all for joining us today for this important event.
I need to recognize some of our talented HUD staff here today from the Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes—especially our Director, Matthew Ammon, along with Michelle Miller, Peter Ashley, and Warren Friedman. They all do a tremendous amount of work to carry out our Department's lead remediation efforts and they worked closely with the agencies here today on this Federal Action Plan.
I also want to thank Secretary Azar and Deputy Secretary Hargan for their efforts in the fight against environmental hazards to children's health, and I look forward to building on the important work we have achieved together.
Today, we are here to unveil a Federal Action Plan to reduce childhood lead exposure, and HUD is announcing nearly 140 million dollars in grant funding to 48 state and local government agencies to help protect American children and families from lead-based paint.
Lead exposure has two distinct qualities: first, its intensity, which is so severe that it can have crippling, long-term effects. And, second, its invisibility, as it can go unnoticed by those not directly affected.
That's why lead testing for children is critically important.
Lead poisoning and its impact on children is uniquely personal for me.
Prior to becoming HUD Secretary, my life's work as a pediatric neurosurgeon was to heal, treat and protect the human brain. The brain serves a very important purpose – it is the home of the mind. And no mind is more precious, or more fragile, than the mind of a child. The child's mind is blessed with nearly infinite possibility to develop however that child dares to dream. Early in my medical career, I discovered that there was no satisfaction greater than to preserve and protect the child's mind.
For this reason, the treatment of children became my calling. From doctor, to neurosurgeon, to head of the Pediatric Neurosurgery division at Johns Hopkins, I was made acutely aware of the pernicious effects of lead poisoning on a child's mental and physical development.
As a surgeon, some of my saddest moments came after treating a child, overcoming the odds by mitigating a seemingly intractable disease, and then watching that child walk out the hospital doors, back to a hazardous home where safety could not be assured.
As a doctor, my power to help that child ended the moment he or she walked out the door. Which leads me to our work at HUD.
I am committed to making sure our Department's resources reach the doors of high-risk American families at the prevention stage—long before their children are exposed to dangerous chemicals for which they might later need a cure.
HUD works with public housing authorities and private landlords across the country to provide affordable housing to approximately five million households. To help ensure the children and families we serve are safe, HUD's Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes provides technical guidance to our local grantees and other stakeholders to confront hazards related to rehabilitating damaged homes, such as mold, lead-based paint and asbestos.
Earlier this year, HUD announced that it would make Lead Hazard Reduction Grants available to help eliminate dangerous lead-based paint hazards from lower income homes. Today, we are announcing the winners of those grants who are working to protect high-risk American children and families.
HUD is also very proud to have participated in the President's Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children. Today, the Task Force is unveiling its blueprint, the Federal Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures and Associated Health Impacts.
The Action Plan has four goals to reduce harm to children from lead exposure. They are: one, reducing children's exposure to lead sources; two, identifying lead-exposed children and improving their health outcomes; three, communicating more effectively with stakeholders; and four, supporting and conducting critical research to inform efforts to reduce lead exposures and related health risks.
The plan will accomplish these goals through collaboration among federal agencies and with a range of stakeholders, including states, tribes and local communities, along with parents, businesses, and property owners.
We congratulate today's winners of the Lead Hazard Reduction Grant, and look forward to working with fellow Task Force members to enact this powerful new blueprint, and doing our part to take the lead on tackling lead.
With that, I would like to welcome Deputy Secretary Hargan back to the podium.