Lead Remediation Bill Misses the Mark (SB 247, 2017)

Addressed to House Finance Committee by Shannon McGinley, Cornerstone Executive Director:

On behalf of Cornerstone’s supporters, we urge you to reject SB 247. The scourge of lead poisoning is not addressed properly in this bill, which interferes with parental rights and subjects children to unnecessary and physically invasive testing. Since the fiscal impact is the primary focus of this committee, how can the state possibly take this on in light of other crisis that need immediate attention like the opioid crisis among other less controversial critical needs?

SB 247 calls for blood testing of all children in New Hampshire, regardless of whether they live in an older home and regardless of whether they consume water from contaminated pipes. A child living in a home built in 2000, for example, free from leaded paint, and with water from a well that’s been tested and found safe, is supposed to be subjected to two blood draws, at ages one and two. The blood will be tested for exposure to a substance not found in the child’s environment. That makes no sense.

SB 247 holds a child’s education hostage to the blood testing process. We know the amended version allows a parent to opt-out of blood testing. That’s not satisfactory. Let parents choose to opt-in, if and when a parent decides that blood testing is appropriate for her child. There should be no linkage at all between blood testing and school attendance, when the condition being addressed (lead poisoning) is not contagious and when the child’s residential environment is not contaminated.

What will this bill do for families owning homes built before 1978? Will those families have access to the landlords’ fund that would be established under SB 247 to help with lead remediation? No, they wouldn’t. The funds would be available to owners of rentalhousing. If childhood lead poisoning is the target of this bill, then remediation funds should be available to ALL owners of buildings contaminated by lead. As written, SB 247 appears to be a kind of bailout for landlords who have put off remediating their contaminated old properties that they have been renting to families.

SB 247 attempts to impose medical testing on children, when that responsibility belongs with parents. It attempts to hold education hostage to blood testing for lead, even though there is no question of contagion to the school community. SB 247 offers money to landlords while leaving homeowners to fend for themselves.

The sponsors’ stated intentions aren’t enough to offset this bill’s flaws. Please send SB 247 back to the House with an ITL recommendation.