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Lamont proposes legislation to stem childhood lead poisoning

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont
From Ned Lamont on Twitter
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced a proposal to help alleviate the risk of lead poisoning in children.

The bill — drafted in the state House by Democratic Representatives David Michel of Stamford, Dr. Saud Anwar of East Hartford and Christine Palm of Chester — includes regulations to detect early warnings for children with lead present in their blood, as well as more frequent testing of children who live in cities where the lead concentration is high.

To pay for implementing new regulations and remediation projects, the governor included allocating $70 million of federal coronavirus relief funding in his fiscal year 2023 budget proposal.

The state would also find and replace lead service lines for drinking water with $150 million in federal infrastructure spending that is expected over the next five years. Lamont said updating “basics” is important — like pipes, sinks and drinking water fountains — not just building new infrastructure.

“We have an old state,” Lamont said during a visit with students, parents and educators at New Haven schools on Monday. “We’ve got a lot of old stuff here, and we’ve got to keep it young.”

State Public Health Commissioner Dr. Manisha Juthani warned of the detrimental effects lead poisoning has on children.

“The damages caused by lead are permanent,” Juthani said. “When we talk about behavioral problems, cognitive problems, what fault can we place if we have not done what is in our control to help young people?”

Juthani praised the city of New Haven for lowering its health department’s threshold for determining lead poisoning in children. While New Haven considers 5 micrograms per deciliter to be too high, Connecticut does not raise the alarm until levels reach four times that.

On Monday, the Public Health Committee will hold a public hearing to discuss the issue of childhood lead poisoning. Lamont encouraged the group of parents and teachers to write letters to their state Representatives to be read at the event.

“Write a letter to your favorite legislator or congressperson, your favorite mayor, he’ll get those up there,” Lamont said. “It’s not flashy, but it’s key to public health and public safety, and it’s key for each and every one of these kids.”

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.