Senate Democrats have been in the forefront of efforts to address exposure to lead

Harrisburg – Sept. 1, 2017 – State Sen. Vincent J. Hughes and Senate Democrats applauded Gov. Tom Wolf’s support of universal testing of children under the age of 2 to determine their risk of lead poisoning. 

The governor has urged the state Department of Health to work collaboratively with the General Assembly and community partners on crafting legislation to compel testing of children under the age of 2 for lead exposure. 

Hughes (D-Philadelphia), along with several Senate Democrats, including Sens. Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny), Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) Judy Schwank (D-Berks), John Yudichak (D-Luzerne), Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia) and Art Haywood (D-Philadelphia) have been leaders in the effort to combat lead poisoning. 

Senate Democrats have offered a comprehensive legislative package to help children, day care centers and home buyers deal with the threat of lead poisoning.  Senate Resolution 33, which called for a task force to study lead exposure, was approved by the Senate in early June. 

“The governor’s call for universal lead testing of children under the age of 2 is a huge step forward,” Hughes said.  “Finding out the depth of the problem will enable us to better design a more effective strategy to deal with lead and help prevent problems associated with lead.”

According to the Department of Health, 28 percent of children in Pennsylvania under 2 years of age were tested for lead in 2015.  Several years ago, lead seeping into Flint, Michigan’s public water system caused a devastating health crisis and spurred governments to examine the levels of lead exposure. Eighteen Pennsylvania cities tested higher than Flint for elevated blood lead levels.

Senate Democrats first introduced a comprehensive package of measures dealing with lead in 2016 following the Flint crisis.  The legislative package included five bills that would establish a task force to study the issue and account for the age of the state’s housing stock, pipelines and school buildings; require school buildings to be tested for lead; require the licensing of lead testing centers; require property sales agreements to include an option for water testing for lead; and create a “Superfund for Lead Abatement” that would help pay lead remediation costs.  

“We can do better and protect children and families from lead poisoning,” Hughes said.  “The governor’s support is key to our success in addressing lead in our communities, homes and schools.

“My Senate Democratic colleagues and I are ready to move aggressively on legislation that gets to the root cause of the problem.”

Information about the incidence of lead exposure would enable families to access available services, Hughes said.

In December 2016, Hughes announced that $125,000 in state grant dollars were available to help Philadelphia deal with lead issues.