Americans would help finance the towering costs of finding and removing hazardous lead paint from older homes in Baltimore and elsewhere around the country by paying about $15 more for their car batteries, under legislation being introduced in Congress today.
Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., said the bill he drafted would raise $1 billion a year for lead-paint abatement by levying an excise tax on continuing uses of lead.
"This legislation provides the only real cure for lead poisoning -- prevention," Cardin said in a statement. "The federal government banned the use of lead-based paint in the 1970s, but has done next to nothing to remove the 3 million tons of lead- based paint that remains in our homes. This legislation is the next step."
The bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., was hailed by environmentalists and health advocates.
The congressmen also joined last week in proposing another lead bill. That legislation would set a federal standard for lead in drinking water and would require that new homeowners and ten
ants be notified there may be lead paint in their homes.
Cardin's lead tax bill is likely to be opposed by the lead industry and by makers of car and truck batteries, the chief continuing use of the metal.
The cost of removing or covering lead paint in homes is a major barrier to preventing lead poisoning, which affects one out of every six American children, and as many as half of all Baltimore youths, according to health officials.
A survey by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that 57 million homes built before 1980 contain lead paint.
Testing and de-leading only 3.8 million "priority hazard" homes -- where children live amid toxic lead dust or deteriorating paint -- could cost $8 billion to $10 billion a year for the next decade, HUD says.
In Maryland, about 500,000 homes were built before 1950 and are likely to contain lead paint. About 200,000 are in Baltimore.
Funds raised by the tax would be distributed among states and cities with lead-paint abatement programs, with the money to be targeted to aid low-income families.