Two recently published federal reports indicate the Department of Housing and Urban Development has failed for years to protect hundreds of thousands of children living in public housing with potential exposure to lead paint, according to ProPublica.
The reports describe a hodgepodge reporting system within HUD, as well as disjointed communication between the federal agency and the local housing authorities it oversees. Cases of children poisoned by lead are not always identified and followed up on in a timely manner. And documentation of lead-based paint inspections and efforts to remove hazards are often missing, incomplete or not routed to the right place, according to the reports by the HUD Office of Inspector General and U.S. Government Accountability Office.
Experts say these shortcomings in HUD’s oversight systems have existed for years with little to no consequence to government officials — but potentially devastating ones for vulnerable children.
According to the inspector general, HUD failed to ensure that 3,800 public housing authorities complied with finding and eliminating lead hazards, ProPublica reported.
And out of approximately 7,000 public housing developments across the U.S., fewer than half submitted lead paint inspections. As for the rest – some 4,000 – the IG’s office could not account for their status.
Lead poisoning, even at low levels, can lead to lifelong physical and developmental delays for young children. The government banned the use of lead paint in residential homes in 1978. Many older homes still contain lead paint, but the risk increases with deterioration of the paint, which can chip off into pieces or dust particles that children can ingest.
HUD ensures compliance, in part, by requiring that housing authorities annually self-certify that they are following lead safety rules.