by Matt Prindiville, NRCM Toxics Project Director
Senator Brannigan, Representative Perry and Members of the Committee on Health and Human Services. My name is Matt Prindiville. I am the Toxics Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM). NRCM is Maine’s leading, membership-supported environmental advocacy organization. We represent over 10,000 members and supporters and work on a variety of issues including energy policy, land conservation, river restoration and environmental health issues.
NRCM strongly supports LD 2218 and we thank Speaker Cummings for bringing these issues to the attention of the Committee. In the interest of time and because I know this committee is well aware of the hazards of lead paint, I’m going to skip some of the national and Maine health statistics on lead poisoning, although you can skip to the back of my testimony for a short list.
I would instead like to pose a question to the committee. Do you know when the United States banned lead for use in paint? It was 1978. Do you know what year the first country in the world banned lead in paint? The country was France, and the year was 1909 and most of Europe followed shortly thereafter. In the United States, the legacy of seven decades of inaction, much of it directly caused by the paint, oil and chemical industries’ influence in Congress, led to millions and millions of children being lead poisoned and the systematic dumbing down of the American people.
According to EPA, in 1978, there were 13.5 million children with elevated lead levels (above 10 ng/dl)(1). Thankfully, that number has come drastically down because we finally got around to eliminating lead additives in paint and gasoline. We did this because we knew lead was poisoning our kids, but unfortunately, the sad truth is that it still is.
A 1991 amendment to Maine’s Lead Poisoning Control Act, 22 MRSA §1314-A, set the following laudable, ambitious but attainable goal: “The goal of the State in the area of lead poisoning is to eradicate childhood lead poisoning by the year 2010 through the elimination of potential sources of environmental lead.”
But there is so much more to the story than statistics. Speaker Cummings and his family have suffered the consequences of corporate and governmental inaction and the lack of education and awareness around lead paint hazards. And each year, there are 550 new cases of Maine families being unaware of the hazards of lead paint and going through the agony of trying to help their child and wishing they had known better, wishing that someone had properly informed them, wishing that someone had told them what needed to be done to protect their family.
LD 2218 is an important step towards ensuring that Maine children don’t end up as statistics. It codifies some good principles: 1) that information is a good thing, that ignorance is not bliss and certainly doesn’t protect our kids from getting lead poisoned, and that steps need to be taken to educate homeowners about how to identify and protect their families from lead paint hazards; 2) that safe work-practices should be the norm and that we need to get Maine contractors up to speed about proper procedures for lead abatement and remediation; 3) that it is our duty to monitor and inform parents when their children are being exposed to a serious toxic risk in their homes, especially when it’s an outlaw chemical that they thought was banned years ago and isn’t a problem anymore; 3) that evidence should lead to action – when we find it, lets do what’s necessary to get the lead out.
In closing, I would also add that I’m not just an employee of NRCM; I’m also the proud parent of a seven-year old boy and nine-month old girl. My wife is a special education teacher and she deals with the effects of this issue every day. We recently bought an old home in Rockland and are in the process of completing extensive renovations to abate the lead in our new home before we move in. It is costing us a lot of money, but we wouldn’t dream of not doing it because our kids and the brightness of their future are worth so much more. Thank you for the opportunity to testify and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
• <strong• <strong• The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that approximately 1.7 million children have blood lead levels high enough to be of a health concern (6).
• The Learning Disabilities Association of Maine estimates that 13,400 Maine children and 127,000 adults have learning disabilities. Exposure to toxic substances is part of the root cause of over 25% of these learning disabilities (7).
1 US Environmental Protection Agency. Lead Web Pages. http://www.epa.gov/lead/>/a>
2 “Healthy Maine 2010: Environmental Health.” Maine Center for Disease Control. http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/boh/files/hm2010/hm2010/a06ch03.pdf
3 “Healthy Maine 2010: Environmental Health.” Maine Center for Disease Control. http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/boh/files/hm2010/hm2010/a06ch03.pdf
4 “Strategic Plan for the Elimination of Lead Poisoning”, Centers for Disease Control (CDC’). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Atlanta, Georgia, 1991.
5 “Healthy Maine 2010: Environmental Health.” Maine Center for Disease Control. http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/boh/files/hm2010/hm2010/a06ch03.pdf
6 “Office of Lead-Based Paint Abatement and Poisoning Prevention; Requirements for Notification, Evaluation and Reduction of Lead-Based Paint Hazards in Federally Owned Residential Property and Housing Receiving Federal Assistance.” US EPA. http://www.epa.gov/EPA-GENERAL/1996/June/Day-07/pr-23402.txt.html
7 Healthy Homes and Familes: How to Reduce Your Families Exposure to Toxic Chemicals at Home.” Learning Disabilities of Maine. May 2006. http://www.ldame.org/docs/healthy%20homes%20may2006.pdf