FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Announces New Action to Protect Communities from Lead Exposure
Building on the Biden-Harris Administration's Historic Commitment to Protect Children and Families from Lead Poisoning, EPA Proposes Rule to Remove Lead Pipes Across the United States
The Biden-Harris Administration is working to ensure a future where every child and family can live safely in their communities without the fear and harmful effects of lead exposure. Today, as part of President Biden and Vice President Harris's vision for a lead-free future, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a proposal to strengthen its Lead and Copper Rule that would require water systems to replace lead service lines within 10 years, helping secure safe drinking water for communities across the country. The President's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests over $50 billion for the largest upgrade to the nation's water infrastructure in history, and today's action builds on these historic levels of funding from President Biden's Investing in America agenda, a key pillar of Bidenomics, to replace lead service lines across the nation.
More than 9.2 million American households connect to water through lead pipes and lead service lines. Due to decades of inequitable infrastructure development and underinvestment, lead exposure disproportionately affects low-income communities and communities of color. There is no safe level of exposure to lead, particularly for children, and eliminating lead exposure from the air, water, and homes is a crucial component of the Biden-Harris Administration's historic commitment to advancing environmental justice.
In addition to taking action towards achieving 100 percent replacement of lead service lines, EPA's proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvements increase tap water sampling requirements, require water systems to complete comprehensive and publicly available lead service line inventories, and strengthen and streamline requirements for water systems to take additional actions to reduce lead health risks to communities. This proposal advances the Biden-Harris Administration's Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan, a whole-of-government approach to reduce all sources of lead exposure.
Since the latest progress update in January 2023, the Administration has taken the following actions to tackle lead exposure from water, air, food, lead paint, and other sources which pose risks to human health:
Reducing Exposure to Lead from Water – Lead can enter drinking water when plumbing materials that contain lead corrode, especially where the water has high acidity or low mineral content that corrodes pipes and fixtures. The most common sources of lead in drinking water are lead pipes, faucets, and fixtures. The Administration is taking several actions to reduce this exposure.
- The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $15 billion in funding specifically dedicated for replacing lead service lines, along with an additional $11.7 billion in general-purpose funding through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which can also be used for lead pipe replacement. To date, EPA has awarded over $3.5 billion of this lead service line funding to replace hundreds of thousands of lead service lines in homes, buildings, and schools. To advance President Biden's Justice40 Initiative, EPA has committed to deploying at least 49 percent of its State Revolving Funds to disadvantaged communities. In total during this administration, EPA's Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund programs have provided over $796 million to help systems that serve disadvantaged communities begin removal of lead service lines across the country, protecting the health of over 9.8 million people.
- Funding from the American Rescue Plan's $350 billion State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund can be used by states and communities to replace lead service lines and remediate lead paint. To date, well over $20 billion nationwide has been invested in water infrastructure projects, including significant clean water investments.
- This month, EPA launched the Get the Lead Out (GLO) Initiative, which sets out a partnership with 200 underserved communities nationwide to provide the technical assistance they need to access funding from President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and remove lead service lines from their communities. This initiative builds on EPA and the Department of Labor's partnership with 40 underserved communities to support lead pipe replacement.
- In February 2023, EPA announced a $340 million financing commitment to the City of Philadelphia for lead pipe replacement through the WIFIA program. The initial loan of nearly $20 million will modernize critical drinking water infrastructure by replacing approximately 160 lead service lines and 15 miles of watermains throughout the city.
- In November 2023, EPA announced a $336 million loan to the City of Chicago for lead pipe replacement through the WIFIA program. This financing will help Chicago, which has one of the highest concentrations of lead pipes in the nation, to replace up to 30,000 lead service lines while creating an estimated 2,700 jobs.
- In August 2023, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $78 million in new awards to remediate lead pipes. These funds will help ensure that rural communities have the funds they need to access clean and safe drinking water.
- In March 2023, EPA and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a joint letter to governors to encourage state and local governments to use federal funding to reduce and remove lead in drinking water in early care and education settings, like elementary schools and daycare facilities.
- In July 2023, EPA announced $58 million in grant funding from President Biden's Investing in America agenda to protect children from lead in drinking water at schools and childcare facilities across the country. Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, activities like these to remove lead from drinking water are now eligible to receive funding through the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN). WIFIA and WIIN are also Justice40 covered programs.
Reducing Exposure to Lead from Paint and Dust in the Home – Lead in household dust originates from indoor sources such as deteriorating, old lead-based paint on surfaces, home repair activities, tracking lead-contaminated soil from the outdoors into the indoor environment, or even from lead dust on clothing worn at a job site. The Administration is working to help tackle and eliminate these exposures in several ways.
- In July 2023, EPA announced a proposal to strengthen requirements for the removal of lead-based paint hazards in old buildings and child care facilities to better protect children and communities from exposure to dust generated from lead paint. The proposed rule would strengthen EPA's regulations under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) by revising the dust-lead hazard standards which identify hazardous lead in dust on floors and window sills, and the dust-lead clearance levels of the amount of lead that can remain in dust on floors, window sills and window troughs after lead removal activities. If finalized, this rule will reduce the potential lead exposures of approximately 250,000 to 500,000 children under age six per year.
- On November 1 and 2, 2023, the EPA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) held a virtual public workshop to receive stakeholder input on the detection, measurement, and characterization of lead-based paint to support efforts to reduce lead exposure. EPA and HUD will use information received during the workshop to inform their joint effort to revisit the federal definition of lead-based paint and propose and finalize a revised definition, if necessary. EPA uses the definition in its Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) program and Lead-Based Paint Activities (LBPA) program and HUD in its Lead-Safe Housing Rule (LSHR) program and Lead Hazard Reduction (LHR) grant program. Both agencies use the definition in their jointly issued and enforced Lead Disclosure Rule.
- Over the past year, HUD executed over $307 million in grants to make homes of low-income families safe from lead-based paint hazards, further advancing President Biden's Justice40 Initiative. The Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes executed $140 million since August 2023 in grants to state and local governments to control these hazards in privately owned homes (mainly rental units) of low-income families, where the homes do not receive HUD housing assistance. In addition, the Office of Public and Indian Housing executed over $42 million in grants to public housing agencies to control these hazards in public housing units where low-income families reside. Research has shown that children residing in housing made free of lead-based paint hazards under the Department's grants have lower blood lead levels as a result of these efforts.
Reducing Exposure to Lead from Air – Major sources of lead in the air include emissions from manufacturing, waste and metals processing, and aircraft operating on leaded aviation fuel. To tackle these emissions, the Administration has taken the following actions.
- In February 2023, EPA published amendments to the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for Lead Acid Battery Manufacturing Plants and the National Emissions Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for Lead Acid Battery Manufacturing Area Sources. These actions include revisions for lead emissions limits at specific stationary sources, requirements for performance testing, and establishment of work practices to minimize fugitive lead dust emissions.
- In March 2023, EPA released a draft of the Integrated Science Assessment (ISA) for Lead for independent peer review and public comment. This draft ISA synthesizes the most policy-relevant science and will ultimately provide the scientific bases for EPA's decisions regarding whether the current Clean Air Act standards for lead sufficiently protect public health and the environment and whether to retain or revise these standards.
- In July 2023, EPA issued proposed amendments to the NESHAP for Integrated Iron and Steel Manufacturing Facilities. The proposed amendments would reduce emissions of toxic metals, including lead, by nearly 80 tons per year.
- In October 2023, EPA released a final determination that emissions of lead from aircraft that operate on leaded fuel cause or contribute to air pollution that may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health and welfare. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA reviews information on air pollutants and sources of air pollution to determine whether they threaten human health or welfare. This is referred to as an "endangerment finding" – a first step in using EPA's authority to address this source of lead pollution.
- In November 2023, EPA finalized amendments to the NSPS for Secondary Lead Smelters. The new requirements include performance tests and emissions limits that will strengthen control of harmful lead and other air toxics.
Reducing Exposure to Lead from Soil – Lead contamination at Superfund sites from past industrial operations like lead mining and smelting can accumulate in soil and poses a threat to human health and the environment. Reducing lead in soils can help to reduce exposure risks.
- During fiscal year 2023, EPA completed 49 Superfund cleanup projects that addressed lead contamination where it posed risks to people's health. Lead is the environmental contaminant most commonly reported by EPA Brownfields cleanup grant recipients. In fiscal year 2023, Brownfields grant recipients completed 62 cleanups that addressed lead contamination.
- HUD is piloting its program of community-led strategies or action plans for environmental justice around HUD housing located near Superfund sites, including addressing soil-lead contamination in the homes of low-income families.
Reducing Exposure to Lead from Food - Lead may be present in food because it is in the environment where foods are grown, raised, or processed. To reduce the risk to the children of ingesting lead with food, the Administration is working on new guidance for processed foods.
- In January 2023, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced draft guidance for industry on action levels for lead in processed foods that are intended for babies and children under two years of age, to help reduce potential health effects in this vulnerable population from dietary exposure to lead. The proposed action levels would result in significant reductions in exposures to lead from food while ensuring availability of nutritious foods. This action is part of Closer to Zero, which sets forth the FDA's science-based approach to continually reducing exposure to lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury to the lowest levels possible in foods eaten by babies and young children.
Protecting People from Lead Exposure in the Workplace – Workers can be exposed to lead as a result of the production, use, maintenance, recycling, and disposal of lead material and products.
- In September 2023, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published a new resource to help employers and workers reduce hazards associated with lead pipe removal and replacement. Recommendations for employers to reduce lead exposure include developing a written lead monitoring and control program which may include a testing protocol, hazard control program, and job hazard assessment for tasks that may expose workers to lead. Recommendations for workers include improved work practices, such as cleaning surfaces, avoiding bringing personal items into contaminated areas, and using personal protective equipment to help reduce their lead exposure.
Establishing Domestic and International Partnerships to Reduce All Lead Exposure – The Administration is working in a number of ways to reduce community exposure to lead, both in the United States and around the world.
- In May 2023, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) National Center for Environmental Health's Lead Poisoning Prevention and Surveillance Branch announced a new Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), Supporting Communities to Reduce Lead Poisoning. Funded recipients will help families avoid the dangers of lead in their homes through community engagement, prevention education, and family support.
- A new international lead exposure working group, led by EPA's Office of International Affairs, has been established under the Lead Subcommittee of the President's Task Force (PTF) on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children.
- EPA continues to engage through the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint with helping to review and enforce lead paint laws to promote the phase-out of the use of lead in paint.
- In April 2023, EPA released a new online resource guide for the public on federal, state, and local materials to prevent lead and other heavy metal exposures in cultural products, including cosmetics, spices, religious powders, cookware, and traditional medicines. The resource is made available in multiple languages.
- To address the detrimental effects of lead poisoning in low and middle-income countries, USAID is aligning with other U.S. government efforts to improve child development, health, and education, including in India and South Africa. This work is happening through initiatives including the Global Child Thrive Act, Advancing Protection and Care for Children in Adversity, and the U.S. Government Strategy on International Basic Education. Through its Missions and Health Offices around the world, USAID is shining a light on the impact of lead exposure on health and development, as well as engaging with government officials on sources, policies, and regulations to prevent further poisoning.
Accelerating Innovations to Improve Blood Lead Testing – Testing blood is the best way to determine if a person has had lead exposure, as there are often no immediate symptoms when someone is exposed to lead. Based on blood lead test results, healthcare providers can recommend follow-up actions and care.
- CDC is working to increase blood lead testing among children enrolled in Medicaid as part of CDC's CORE Health Equity Strategy. The CORE strategy involves collaborating with multi-sectoral partners to incorporate health equity as a foundational component. To identify promising practices in this area, CDC formed the CORE Community of Practice (CoP) in August 2023 with nine Childhood Lead Poisoning Program (CLPPP) recipients. The CORE CoP will meet quarterly to discuss lessons learned from implementing blood lead testing strategies for children enrolled in Medicaid. Promising practices from this initiative will be disseminated to all 62 CLPPP recipients at the end of the project period.
- In November 2023, CDC announced a Lead Detect Prize on challenge.gov with a $1 million prize pool to accelerate the development of next-generation point-of-care blood lead testing technology. NASA and the FDA support the challenge, and it spotlights the urgent need to identify and foster new or existing breakthrough solutions and products for optimal lead testing in children. The first phase of the multiphase challenge calls upon researchers and innovators across disciplines to submit concepts and Lead Detect Prize development plans for advanced point-of-care blood lead tests that could detect very low blood lead levels with reduced risk of blood sample contamination from the environment. Each Phase 1 winner will receive an equal share of the $150,000 Phase 1 prize pool and receive an exclusive invitation to participate and compete for $850,000 in total prizes during Phase 2.
Joseph R. Biden, FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Announces New Action to Protect Communities from Lead Exposure Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/368178