Loyola University Chicago

Beazley Institute for Health Law and Policy

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Professor Emily Benfer Quoted on Lead Poisoning in HUD Housing

Professor Emily Benfer Quoted on Lead Poisoning in HUD Housing

Emily Benfer was recently quoted in an article highlighting the widespread dangerous levels of lead in US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) subsidized housing in Chicago and across the country. More than 2.5 million HUD subsidized units contains hazardous levels of lead, but HUD requires that a child must actually be lead-poisoned before taking action and measures dangerous levels of lead at a level four times higher than the level recommended by the CDC. Professor Benfer explained that this situation forces families “to choose between lead poisoning and the brain damage it causes or homelessness and life on the streets.”

     This is precisely the choice that Tolanda McMullen, a client of the Health Justice Project, was forced to make. Ms. McMullen’s son, Makheil, has had health problems resulting from exposure to lead in HUD housing since he was sixteen months, causing him to struggle with cognitive learning, a speech impediment and attention disorders. Ms. McMullen recently chose homelessness over the continued exposure to lead based paint, but hopes that HUD can find her and her son a safe place to live.

     The Health Justice Project, founded in 2010, is a medical-legal partnership between Loyola University Chicago and Erie Family Health Center engaged in interprofessional collaboration to identify and address social and legal issues that negatively affect the health of low-income individuals. The Health Justice Project, along with a coalition of scientists, medical providers, public health experts, and civil legal aid groups, has been active in addressing the issue of lead poisoning in HUD housing. In response to the Health Justice Project’s petition for rulemaking to amend 24 C.F.R. 35, on March 10, 2016, HUD submitted a proposed rule which would adopt the CDC measurement for dangerous levels of lead and would establish more comprehensive testing and evaluation procedures for HUD subsidized housing. This is an important step towards ensuring that families like the McMullens are not forced to choose homelessness over lead poisoning in HUD subsidized housing.

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