Governor Ned Lamont announced on Friday that he had signed into law Public Act 22-49, which will align Connecticut’s standards on childhood lead poisoning with federal standards and help alleviate the risks associated with it.
The governor proposed the legislation earlier this year as part of his package of priorities for the legislative session, explaining that the state needs to proactively do a better job of protecting children from lead poisoning.
The governor discussed the importance of the new law on Friday during an event in Waterbury, a city where 72% of its housing units were built before 1978, making the presence of lead likely now or in the past. Waterbury has embraced the issue of addressing lead in its housing stock over the last few decades by building a strong remediation program that received $5.7 million in 2020 – the largest possible federal grant – to assist in tackling this issue.
Speaking in front of two homes that were recently remediated for lead, Governor Lamont emphasized the importance of lead remediation programs like Waterbury’s and a strong partnership between state and local health departments to combat lead poisoning in Connecticut’s children.
“Childhood lead poisoning has catastrophic impacts on health and development, including irreversible learning and developmental disabilities,” Governor Lamont said in a release on Friday. “In particular, this problem has most deeply impacted minority families and those who live in disadvantaged communities. For too long, the standards for lead testing and treatment in Connecticut have fallen well behind the best practices, and I am glad we are making these long-overdue updates.”
The newly signed law includes steps that will strengthen early intervention in instances of lead poisoning by gradually reducing the blood lead level that triggers parental notifications and home inspections to more closely align with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and American Academy of Pediatrics.
In 2020, 1,024 Connecticut children had a significant enough concentration of lead in their blood that those organizations would have recommended a home inspection. However, Connecticut law required only 178 investigations.
It will also empower the CT Dept of Public Health to require more frequent testing of children living in cities and towns where exposure to lead is most common. Those changes will ensure the families of children with unsafe blood lead levels receive appropriate educational materials, the homes of those children are inspected and remediated when appropriate, and the children themselves receive any required care. (More data about the prevalence of elevated lead levels in Connecticut is available here.)
“The children being protected by this law are the future, and we need their homes, their schools and the places they are being cared for to be safe,” said CT Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani, MD, in a release.”The damages cause by lead are permanent and we have not done what’s in our control to help these young people. Thanks to Governor Lamont, this investment will help local health departments make the changes that will affect the communities that need it the most.”
The legislation was approved in the House and the Senate by unanimous votes. It takes effect on January 1, 2023, except for a provision related to a lead poisoning prevention and treatment working group, which is effective upon passage.
In addition to this bill, the budget bill that Governor Lamont signed into law this spring includes $30 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act that will be used for lead case management and remediation.
This funding will not only help cover any municipal costs associated with the revised standards, but also help property owners and landlords in vulnerable communities undertake lead abatement and remediation projects before a child is harmed. Those projects will use local contractors.