HUD is Wrong on Lead Standards and Must do Right


Top Sources of Lead in the Home

New Orleans   Here’s a simple question that I don’t think will take anyone long to answer, though perhaps it should.

Donald Trump and his latest wife have a 9-year old son, Barron. Michelle and Barack Obama moved into the White House with two young daughters whose age at the time was less than two digits. Hillary and Bill Clinton raised a young daughter in the White House during their eight years in residence. The White House is the prime example of public housing in the United States, so here’s the question: would any of these mothers and fathers be willing, or have been willing, to move their young, vulnerable children into the public housing on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC if the White House was using the same lead standard as HUD, the Housing and Urban Development Department, uses for the rest of the public housing in the country?

You know the answer. And, you know the answer isn’t, “No,” but “No, way!”

These days we’re reading the daily news about lead in the water in Flint, Michigan and the terrible toll it is taking. We’re reading about the on-going damage from lead paint that has damaged children in Cleveland for decades. Over 80% of prisoners in jail have shown signs for prior lead poisoning, where public authorities bothered to actually test them for lead, which should also be mandatory. Besides the tragedy of ruined and painful lives, the cost of medical care, educational support, loss of lifetime earnings, and future taxes that we’re paying for our negligence is in the billions. So, here’s what should be another easy question. Controlling lead poisoning should be a no-brainer, right?

Unbelievably, the answer so far is not yes, but no. There is a chance to change the answer though at least for low-income and largely minority children who are living in 1.6 million households with children at-risk for lead poisoning, because they are in HUD public or subsidized housing.

For some unfathomable reason though, and it likely has to do with money and, more disturbingly, the fact that the damaged population is in fact lower income and minority, and therefore in the eyes of Congress and too many bureaucrats, not worth saving, HUD’s standards for acceptable lead levels requiring action are below 20 micrograms per deciliter or 15 to 19 micrograms per deciliter over three months. As Emily Benfer, a Chicago lawyer and lead expert writes in The New York Times, these are already “levels that cause severe and permanent brain damage.” These are also levels that are three and four times the federal Center for Disease Control Center’s recommendation of “intervention for lead poisoning at 5 micrograms per deciliter.” And, hey, the CDC’s recommendations are also felt by lead experts to be absurd because the intervention level should be anything over zero!

There is a rule-making petition that is confronting HUD with a demand to change its standards for lead prevention. Maybe not to the White House level yet, but at least no worse than the CDC. Emily Benfer wrote the petition with her team and as she says, it has support:

I am thrilled to report that the Health Justice Project, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, and 28 national non-profits, racial justice organizations, medical-legal partnerships, civil legal aid organizations, civil rights groups, scientists, public health practitioners, advocates, and medical providers filed a petition for rule making with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to improve lead poisoning prevention in federally assisted housing. We are especially grateful to leadnet advocates Richard Reibstein, Beth Butler, Dr. Howard Mielke, Dr. Bruce Lanphear, Dr. David Rosner, the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative, and the Childhood Lead Action Project for their support and guidance!

For the rest of us there is something we can do as well: write our Senators and Congresspeople and ask them to co-sponsor the bills introduced by Senator Durban of Illinois and Senator Menendez of New Jersey in the US Senate and Congressional Representatives Ellison from Minnesota, Quigley from Illinois, and Lawrence from Pennsylvania in the House.

Let’s have one standard for all public housing, rather than leaving the poor on the curb.



wpc winter 2011 6 unusual sources of lead

wpc winter 2011 6b unusual sources of lead


Internet Monopolies Walls are Going to Tumble

Telus better pack it up or get right!

Telus better pack it up or get right!

Dallas     At the ACORN Canada staff training and then the management meeting in Montreal, we spent a LOT of time assessing and strategizing about our next steps on our Digital Access to Opportunities campaign which, plainly stated, continues to be our effort to build bridges for lower income families across the digital divide.

In Canada the companies are even more closely held monopoly concerns with the big three Telus, Canada Bell, and Rogers than are found even in the United States, although Comcast with its proposed merger of Times-Warner clearly has its heart set on going the same way.  Despite some steps to accommodate us with a $10 per month plan in public housing in Tornoto, Rogers has not moved past that opening round and what they delivered has been less than promised.  Telus in a meeting in Vancouver had told us they were moving our way, but then have not gotten back to us, and Bell continues to be unabashedly arrogant and impervious to our concerns, having adopted what can only be seen as a Comcast head-in-the-stand, make-me-do-it, schoolyard bully approach to the problem, hoping it will disappear into the Ethernet or something.

Not clear what tea leaves their lobbyists are telling them to read, but they’ve got trouble on the horizon.  The regulators in Canada are preparing for a hearing this winter on declaring the internet a public utility, and the same thing has been promised in the US by the FCC.

ACORN is committed to participating in the Ottawa hearings, but we’re convinced the court of public opinion is where we will be able to be heard more clearly.   They may have invested in some infrastructure but surveys of our members and others reveal that people hate their cable and internet company the way they once hated the local tax man.  Furthermore their brands are ubiquitous and their tentacles stretch everywhere from their ownership to sports teams in Tornoto to the bicycle sharing program in Montreal.  That’s a big, wide butt ready for the kicking!  We’re convinced that to get them finally to take seriously the desperation of lower income families to have access to opportunities, we’re going to have to go big, go broad, and be as ubiquitous as they are.  Enough said for now.

Meanwhile the often clueless former industry lobbyist heading the FCC must have startled the big boys of the industry in the financial papers the other day by pretty graphically drawing a picture of all of the internet companies as being emperors with no clothes on.  He simply stated the obvious without stating the obvious.  He said there is little or no competition in most markets so that internet service costs too much and changing from one operator to another is prohibitively expensive.  All of which is another way of saying that the companies are anti-competitive and operating like Canadians, or what we used to call monopolies.  Chairmen Wheeler claimed 80% of Americans have access to high speed internet at 25 megbits per second, though he didn’t say at what price, but if he’s going to acknowledge as his statement indicated that the “F.C.C. planned to promote more choices and protect competition, because a lack of adequate consumer choice inhibits innovation, investment and economic benefits,” it’s hard to believe that they can’t get the message.  For a change it was even an indirect shot across Comcast’s bow, since their claim that they are not a monopoly through their purchase of Times-Warner is that they don’t often compete in the same markets.  Someone seems to have given Wheeler the memo that they are in different markets, because they don’t compete, and you can’t claim you are regulating them to assure competition when they are silently colluding to kept customers captive and control separate geographies.

Ok, yeah, maybe I’m dreaming about the FCC being something other than chattel for the companies, but maybe when they see what we have in store for the companies in Canada some of the chill will blow down from the north to cool some of the imperial monopoly dreams that are widening the digital divide.  Here’s hoping!