CLEVELAND — Darrick Wade is a Cleveland father who has been fighting for better lead testing at federally assisted housing units at the city, state and federal level for the past three decades, after losing his son Demetrius to lead poisoning in 2007.
Wade is urging federal lawmakers to pass the Lead Safe Housing for Kids Act in 2022, which would require more extensive lead testing at HUD housing units that aren't covered by Cleveland's relatively new lead safe certification.
"This Lead Safe Housing for Kids Act is very important to me as well as personal because of my son," Wade said. “There are some 10,000 units that are federally assisted, as well as some 14,000 housing choice voucher units that aren't covered by Cleveland's law."
“It will cover all federally assisted housing for children who are under 6 years old and pre-1978 housing. Give us a vote for the legislation, a vote of yes. Lead poisoning doesn’t cross racial lines, ethnic lines, religion lines.”
Cleveland Lead Advocates for Safe Housing or CLASH has now partnered with national environmental justice law firm EarthJusticein calling on Congress to pass the Lead Safe Housing for Kids Act.
EarthJustice Associate Legislative Representative Nathan Park told News 5 the federal legislation would essentially ban visual lead inspections at these HUD units and require more extensive lead assessments, which includes actual lead testing.
“It protects children and families from led poisoning in federally assisted housing by closing a regulatory gap on how these units are inspected for lead," Park said. "Currently, housing choice voucher and some other federal assisted housing units only require an ineffective visual assessment for lead hazards when seeking occupancy by families with children. Because of this inadequate testing regime, lead hazards in housing choice voucher units and other housing units are often not identified until after a child living in those units has been lead poisoned.”
"The bill bans the use of visual assessments and instead requires a comprehensive risk assessment. These risk assessments do provide a better way of assessing if there is lead poising, they require testing.”
“We know the sources of it, we know what we need to do to curtail lead poisoning in this country, and so the federal government, congress and the administration need to act."
Park said while EarthJustice and CLASH are pushing for passage of the Lead Safe Housing Act for Kids in 2022, it's more realistic to hope the measure will be up for a vote next year after the new Congress is elected in November.
Meanwhile, Wade said he won't stop his effort until better lead testing becomes a reality.
"Lead is a silent killer and it disguises itself in many, many illnesses, it is imperative that we get this legislation passed," Wade said. “I continue to try for him, in honor of my son Demetrius and all of those children who have been effected by lead."