As New Study Shows Majority of Iowa Children Have Lead in Their Blood, Rep. Axne Emphasizes Need for New Housing Investments

October 22, 2021
Press Release
House vote expected soon on bills that will invest in new affordable housing and lead pipe replacement projects

Yesterday, Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03), the Vice Chair of the House Financial Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development, and Insurance, emphasized the need for new investments in housing to prevent more Iowa children from being exposed to lead.

Rep. Axne highlighted a recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics that found that more than 75% of Iowa children under the age of six had detectable levels of lead in their blood – the fourth highest in the U.S. — and asked the experts at the hearing where in Iowa’s communities that lead exposure is likely most prevalent.

“Having this kind of level of lead poisoning in Iowa’s children is very concerning to me,” Rep. Axne said in an exchange with Dr. Khalil Shahyd of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “My understanding is that lead is far more likely in areas where there’s more older housing – especially housing from 40 years ago or more. Does that fit with your research?”

“Yes it does. Our housing stock — really across the nation — has not gotten the attention, particularly that housing that’s relied on households with fixed incomes. So our elders, as well as low income families just haven’t had the type of upgrading, and upkeep and maintenance,” said Dr. Shahyd. And the lead issue is both an issue of paint inside the house, but also issues – as we know, obviously with Flint and with many other municipal water systems as well…lead also in the water lines.”

The full clip from the hearing can be found HERE. More information on the hearing can be found HERE.

Rep. Axne also asked the experts how new investments in affordable housing from the Build Back Better Act could help solve lead exposure issues in Iowa.

“It appears we don’t see the same level of issues with new housing,” Rep. Axne asked. “Is building new housing or replacing older housing with new – as we’ve structured in the Build Back Better Act – likely to improve our children’s health by protecting them from lead?”

“Yes it definitely will,” said Lisa Rice, President and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance. “And in addition to that, as I alluded to earlier, the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act provides substantial subsidies to enable the refurbishment, the renovation and the rehabilitation of naturally occurring affordable housing that is already existing in our communities.”

Last month, Rep. Axne and the Financial Services Committee compiled their draft section of the Build Back Better Act. The draft advanced by the committee paves the way for more than $1 billion in housing investments for Iowa, and provides funding for programs that Axne fought to prioritize over the past two years: manufactured home affordability and expanded affordable housing options in rural areas.

Rep. Axne is also a co-sponsor of the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act, which encourages investment and repairs of homes in distressed neighborhoods.

The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which is also due for a vote before the House soon, would bring over $600 million to Iowa to improve water infrastructure and replace lead pipes in communities.