Health and justice advocates praise Governor Sununu, House and Senate leaders, for support of SB 247Posted Jan 02, 2018
Health and justice advocates praise Governor Sununu, House and Senate leaders, for support of SB 247
CONCORD, NH – This afternoon, New Hampshire public health advocates celebrate Governor Christopher T. Sununu’s endorsement of SB 247, common sense, bipartisan legislation to better protect New Hampshire’s children from the life-long consequences of lead poisoning.
Sununu endorsed the bill at a press conference in Concord, saying:
“We say it a lot but we can never say it enough. It’s really about the kids. It’s about making sure that families have the resources to make sure their kids are on as healthy a path as possible. We know lead affects the youngest of us. So many of the issues that we talk about in our community are indirect effects of lead poisoning. I want to thank the Representatives and the Senators for taking this as an issue, for understanding the importance of it and making sure that we have an avenue for addressing it as a state.”
Sununu was joined at the event by Concord pediatrician Dr. William Storo, Senators Jeb Bradley and Dan Feltes, by Representatives Neal Kurk and Frank Byron, and by Jessica Livingston, whose children experienced lead poisoning from paint dust in their Concord apartment.
“This bill is too late to prevent the anguish my family endured after my children were poisoned by lead. But I hope it will save other children and other parents from what my family has gone through,” Livingston said. “We will never know the true impact of the lead in our children’s blood but we will always wonder.”
SB 247, due for a floor vote tomorrow, includes a number of measures to address the persistent threat issue of childhood lead poisoning in New Hampshire, such as establishing universal lead testing for all one- and two-year olds (while providing parents the right to opt out); gradually reducing the state’s regulatory “action level” from a blood lead level of 10 micrograms per deciliter to 7.5 in July 2019, and to 5 in July 2021; and addressing lead in drinking water.
New Hampshire has some of the oldest housing stock in the country, meaning many children are at risk for lead poisoning. Every year, several hundred additional Granite State children are diagnosed with elevated blood lead levels, and many more go untested and untreated.
“No amount of lead in a child’s blood is safe,” said Dr. Storo. “The CDC and numerous scientific studies have shown that children suffering exposures to even low levels of lead will suffer serious consequences, such as the irreversible lowering of IQ and behavioral problems.”
“Every year, hundreds of New Hampshire children are poisoned by lead, at a rate 2.5 times the national average,” said Rep. Byron. “SB 247 is designed to responsibly reduce and detect the exposure of the State's children to lead and provide parents and officials the opportunity to take action. By gradually lowering the blood lead limits and simultaneously instituting universal testing, New Hampshire can reduce lead poisoning and improve the health of the state’s children.”
A number of public health and housing advocates attended today’s press conference, including Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), New Hampshire Legal Assistance (NHLA), New Futures, Avesta Housing and The Way Home.
Elliott Berry, director of NHLA’s Housing Justice Project, is a member of the state’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevent and Screening Commission. He says:
“Even when paint isn’t chipping or peeling, normal everyday use of doors, windows, and floors covered with lead paint can create toxic lead dust. Ingestion of this dust is the most common source of lead poisoning in our children. SB 247 as amended by the House Finance Committee makes important progress in our efforts as a state to reduce the risks lead poses of long-term harm to our children.”
Tom Irwin, director of the New Hampshire office of CLF, has worked for years to address the problem of lead poisoning in the Granite State. He says:
“Childhood lead poisoning is a problem of statewide concern, affecting New Hampshire kids in rural and urban communities alike, and across all demographics. But it’s a problem that disproportionately affects low-income families and some of our most vulnerable populations, and by impeding the ability of children to learn, it’s creating yet another barrier for families trying to break the cycle of poverty. To better protect all New Hampshire children and families, it’s essential that SB 247 become law.”
Avesta Housing, a nonprofit affordable-housing provider with over 40 years of experience as a leader in affordable-housing development and property management in southern Maine and New Hampshire, also endorsed the bill. Avesta currently has more than 80 properties and 2,200 apartments. Allie von Glahn, resident services coordinator for the developer, says:
“As Avesta Housing works to bring more affordable homes to New Hampshire, we find it imperative to support initiatives that will positively impact our current and future communities. Lead poisoning is a tragic and preventable issue that needs to be addressed. We strongly support SB 247 and believe that all housing providers should be required to provide safe housing units for all people who call those places home.”