Trump admin lays out plan to confront lead poisoning ‘head-on’

Trump administration officials on Wednesday published a plan that they said would confront the issue of lead exposure among children “head-on.”

While the federal lead action plan has few new announcements, the administration used its unveiling to highlight efforts across 17 federal agencies, mostly ongoing, to reduce lead poisoning.

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future MORE and this administration are committed to tackling this problem head-on,” acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Andrew Wheeler said at an event at the EPA headquarters, alongside Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonCarson's affordable housing idea drawing undue flak Overnight Energy: Trump EPA looks to change air pollution permit process | GOP senators propose easing Obama water rule | Green group sues EPA over lead dust rules Green group sues EPA over lead dust rules it says are too lax MORE and deputy Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan.

The EPA’s contributions to the 24-page action plan center on two regulations that the agency has previously announced and a series of grants that seek to replace lead drinking water infrastructure, including grants to schools and day care centers.

“Here at EPA, we are combating lead exposure on all fronts: in homes, schools, consumer products and drinking water,” Wheeler said. “We are updating the Lead and Copper Rule for the first time in over two decades, we are strengthening the dust-lead hazard standards and we are using our grants and financing problems to help communities test for lead, replace lead pipes and upgrade water infrastructure.”

The Lead and Copper Rule, which was first written in 1991 and has not yet been thoroughly updated, dictates how water utilities must keep lead levels in water low, including which pipes need to be replaced.

Wheeler nor the action plan said exactly what would be in the rule, but Wheeler committed that a proposed revision will be unveiled in spring 2019.

The lead dust rule was required thanks to a December 2017 ruling by the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

Carson said HUD will formally announce $140 million in grants to state and local governments to reduce lead exposure in public housing and other housing under HUD purview.

“I’m committed to making sure our department’s resources reach the doors of high-risk American families at the prevention stage, long before children are exposed to dangerous chemicals for which they might later need a cure,” said Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon.

The Health and Human Services Department, meanwhile, is boosting its focus on research into lead exposure and testing and monitoring of children exposed to it.

Wheeler took issue with the idea that the release of the plan didn’t reveal anything new.

“No, I think there’s quite a few new things in there. And there are things that were just launched in the last 30 and 60 days that are written up in here,” he said.

Part of the issue, Wheeler said, is that the EPA did not want to wait to release important developments to coincide with the action plan release.

“We did not want to hold back the release of any new programs until the release of this report,” he said.

The Natural Resources Defense Council said the administration’s lead plan doesn’t go far enough.

“Talk is fine, but we need action,” Erik Olson, the group’s senior director for health and food, said in a statement.

“Lead is one of our most toxic pollutants, and it’s in our air, waters and lands. And children are our most vulnerable population. Given this administration’s abysmal track record on protecting public health, we remain skeptical.”