Lead-Based Paint Poisoning:

Children in Public Housing Are Not Adequately Protected

RCED-93-138: Published: Sep 17, 1993. Publicly Released: Oct 19, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) efforts to protect children in public housing from lead-based paint hazards, focusing on whether HUD: (1) has complied with lead-based paint legislation; and (2) ensures that public housing authorities (PHA) comply with regulatory requirements.

GAO found that: (1) children with elevated blood levels (EBL) who live in public housing containing lead-based paint hazards are not adequately protected from lead poisoning; (2) PHA often do not comply with federal EBL testing requirements and rely on local testing that does not meet HUD requirements; (3) HUD regulatory requirements for EBL children are too narrowly focused; (4) HUD does not ensure PHA compliance with emergency regulations, adequately protect other children living in hazardous buildings, test other units in an EBL child's building, or warn neighboring residents of potential hazards; (5) PHA often do not meet abatement or relocation requirements for EBL children to comply with HUD requirements; (6) HUD progress in meeting legislative requirements is limited because it has not determined the extent of lead-based paint in public housing and the costs of abatement, completed a comprehensive plan or required demonstration programs, or enforced other related legislative requirements; and (7) although PHA have made limited progress in meeting lead-based paint testing requirements, most PHA abatement efforts are incomplete.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress had not addressed this issue as of September 1995, and there is no indication that such a requirement will be established in the future.

    Matter: In 1995, after PHA have completed testing their units for lead-based paint hazards and HUD has published its comprehensive and workable plan, Congress may wish to consider establishing a deadline for abating these hazards if it finds that PHA are making insufficient progress. Such a deadline could be established in consultation with HUD and PHA officials and experts in lead-based paint abatement.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: According to the Deputy Director of the Office of Lead-Based Paint Abatement and Poisoning Prevention, HUD has no plans to implement this particular recommendation because of its subsequent agreement with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) under which letters were sent from CDC to local health agencies emphasizing the need for these agencies to notify PHA when EBL children were diagnosed.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should take action to ensure that PHA comply with existing EBL regulations. Specifically, the Secretary should require that PHA that rely on local health agencies' lead-based paint tests determine if the tests meet HUD requirements and, if not, ensure that these local health agencies either test according to HUD procedures or notify PHA immediately when an EBL child is identified, so that PHA can promptly test the child's dwelling.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: According to the Deputy Director of the Office of Lead-Based Paint Abatement and Poisoning Prevention, no action is planned. HUD field offices' monitoring has decreased rather than increased because of a lack of staff.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should take action to ensure that PHA comply with existing EBL regulations. Specifically, the Secretary should require that HUD field offices monitor and ensure PHA compliance with existing regulations for each reported EBL case.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On August 31, 1999, HUD sent to the Federal Register its final rule covering notification, evaluation, and reduction of lead-based paint in federally owned and assisted housing. The rule is a major revision of HUD's lead-based paint regulations and for the first time consolidates the regulations into one place in the Code of Federal Regulations. Analysis of the rule shows that it substantially addresses GAO's recommendations.

    Recommendation: To better protect all children living in public housing from lead-based paint hazards, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should revise the regulations to ensure that PHA: (1) notify other tenants living in an EBL child's building that a dwelling in their building contains lead-based paint; (2) test all other dwellings in an EBL child's building if the child's dwelling is found to contain lead-based paint; and (3) do not assign households with children to homes previously occupied by families with EBL children until any lead-based paint found has been abated.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The comprehensive and workable plan has never been issued. However, HUD did revise the tenant notification brochure over a year ago and, in August 1995, a new pamphlet, entitled "Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home," was issued by the EPA and Consumer Product Safety Commission.

    Recommendation: To accomplish the goal of eliminating lead-based paint from public housing and to protect public housing tenants from the hazards of lead-based paint, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should expedite efforts to issue the comprehensive and workable plan to abate lead-based paint hazards in public housing and the revised tenant notification brochure.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: According to the Deputy Director of the Office of Lead-Based Paint Abatement and Poisoning Prevention, HUD does not plan to implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To accomplish the goal of eliminating lead-based paint from public housing and to protect public housing tenants from the hazards of lead-based paint, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should direct field offices to collect testing and abatement certifications from PHA as required.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  6. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: According to the Deputy Director of HUD's Office of Lead-Based Paint Abatement and Poisoning Prevention, the implementation of the Public Housing Comprehensive Grant Program allows PHA greater flexibility in carrying out their modernization projects. Therefore, HUD does not intend to implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To accomplish the goal of eliminating lead-based paint from public housing and to protect public housing tenants from the hazards of lead-based paint, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should reinstate the requirement that HUD field offices approve major modernization projects to ensure that PHA address lead-based paint hazards during modernization.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On August 31, 1999, HUD sent to the Federal Register its final rule covering notification, evaluation, and reduction of lead-based paint in federally owned and assisted housing. The rule is a major revision of HUD's lead-based paint regulations and for the first time consolidates the regulations into one place in the Code of Federal Regulations. Analysis of the rule shows that it substantially addresses GAO's recommendations.

    Recommendation: To accomplish the goal of eliminating lead-based paint from public housing and to protect public housing tenants from the hazards of lead-based paint, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should develop procedures to ensure that PHA notify tenants of lead-based paint test results.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On August 31, 1999, HUD sent to the Federal Register its final rule covering notification, evaluation, and reduction of lead-based paint in federally owned and assisted housing. The rule is a major revision of HUD's lead-based paint regulations and for the first time consolidates the regulations into one place in the Code of Federal Regulations. Analysis of the rule shows that it substantially addresses GAO's recommendations.

    Recommendation: To accomplish the goal of eliminating lead-based paint from public housing and to protect public housing tenants from the hazards of lead-based paint, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should establish a new mechanism for monitoring PHA compliance with the requirement to notify tenants of potential lead-based paint hazards with a brochure, if audits of tenants' files are discontinued.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On August 31, 1999, HUD sent to the Federal Register its final rule covering notification, evaluation, and reduction of lead-based paint in federally owned and assisted housing. The rule is a major revision of HUD's lead-based paint regulations and for the first time consolidates the regulations into one place in the Code of Federal Regulations. Analysis of the rule shows that it substantially addresses GAO's recommendations.

    Recommendation: To protect children with elevated blood lead levels living in public housing from further lead poisoning, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should revise the regulations to require that PHA promptly report EBL cases to HUD.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

 

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