Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposure

Today the President’s Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children released the Federal Lead Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures and Associated Health Impacts. The Action Plan recognizes the progress that has been made on reducing lead exposure over the years but many children are still exposed to high levels of lead.  The focus of the report is on reducing this exposure and preventing the health impacts that come from lead.  The Action Plan focuses on federal agencies but also expects collaboration with states and other entities to implement the goals and actions outlined in the plan.

The four goals of the Lead Action Plan are:

  • Goal 1: Reduce Children’s Exposure to Lead Sources
  • Goal 2: Identify Lead-Exposed Children and Improve their Health Outcomes
  • Goal 3: Communicate More Effectively with Stakeholders
  • Goal 4: Support and Conduct Critical Research to Inform Efforts to Reduce Lead Exposures and Related Health Risks

Each of the goals has specific objectives and actions that will help accomplish the goal.  The specific drinking water-related actions are all under Goal 1, Objective 1.2 – Reduce Exposure to Lead from Drinking Water.  These actions include revising the Lead and Copper Rule and adopting rules to implement the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act (lead content), providing assistance to implement the 3-Ts for schools and child care centers, providing assistance for infrastructure replacement through the SRF, WIFIA, and USDA, and finally implementing new lead grants coming from the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN).  Except for the rural community grants and loans under USDA, the lead agency for all these actions is EPA.

The plan brings together many actions already underway in federal agencies, but full implementation will require adequate budgets.  The plan does not identify any new revenue and specifically states that it will be subject to “budgetary constraints”.  This has caused some criticism of the plan by interest groups who are concerned that budget cuts for EPA and other agencies will reduce its effectiveness.  Some have also pointed to the lack of measurable goals as another reason to question whether the plan will have any real impact.  For drinking water, many of these actions are underway and states have already had input.  ASDWA and state drinking water programs will continue to play an active role moving forward, even if no new initiatives come from the plan.