Nearly every day I see reports on this or that program in Iowa receiving additional funding thank to the federal economic stimulus bill, passed in February over loud Republican objections. This news caught my eye on Monday. Iowa will receive about $7.5 million out of $100 million appropriated to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control Program:
Polk County will receive $3 million to eliminate lead in 206 housing units; Marshalltown will get nearly $2.6 million to remove lead from 150 housing units; and Sioux City will be awarded nearly $2 million to create 75 lead-safe housing units.
Two potential Republican candidates for governor next year happen to be from Sioux City: businessman Bob Vander Plaats and State Representative Chris Rants. I know some conservatives are clueless about the dangers posed by lead paint, but I wonder if Rants and Vander Plaats can see the benefit of creating lead-safe housing.
Background: lead poisoning can cause mental retardation and behavioral problems, and not only in children. “Exposure to excessive amounts of inorganic lead during the toddler years may produce lasting adverse effects upon brain function.” Decades later, people poisoned by lead can show signs of cognitive deficits and mental illness. People exposed to high levels of lead in the womb and in early childhood have cells missing in key areas of the brain and have been found to be “more likely to be arrested for crimes, especially violent crimes.”
If Republicans claim they support lead remediation but don’t think it belongs in an economic stimulus bill, remember that lead remediation requires human labor and therefore creates jobs. I also would like Republicans to explain where they would find the money for this important work, since Republican politicians want deep spending cuts at the state level as well as a federal spending freeze.
I’m glad to learn that more funding to get lead out of homes was included in the stimulus bill. Reducing children’s exposure to lead has long been a priority for Barack Obama.
The Iowa Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Lead Poisoning Prevention has more background on lead poisoning in Iowa.