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Consensus: We must prevent the next lead crisis.

It’s old news that the toxic heavy metal lead in old paint and plumbing harms the brain. We know, and we’ve known for some time, that we have to protect children against exposure.

But that’s not enough. We have to do more for our communities and our world. We have to prevent the next “lead”  from becoming another toxic legacy.

That’s the message, loud and clear, from a consensus statement released today in Environmental Health Perspectives — which has echoed all the way up to the New York Times.

The nation’s leading scientists and health experts, including the National Medical Association and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, are speaking with a single voice: If we are to reduce autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, intellectual disabilities and other learning and behavioral disabilities, we must address toxic chemical threats. We can no longer allow generations of our nation’s children to be harmed by chemicals in our products, pollution in our air, and poor management of old legacy toxics like lead.

State-level work is essential if we’re to avoid creating the next toxic legacy. States have long taken the lead to address toxic chemical threats to babies brains and our health. States have the ability to act quickly on threats to health, and establish programs that have ripple effects in the marketplace far beyond state borders. And this action is what will take us to a safer future.

Scan the Safer States bill tracker and you’ll see state policies addressing the very threats called out in the article: phthalates, toxic flame retardants and more. The evidence for action has been strong enough to spur states to protect people—but with this consensus, the evidence is even stronger.

Our current crisis with high levels of lead in school plumbing highlights the folly of the previous wait-and-see approach. We can’t allow hundreds of thousands of people to undergo harm in order to prove its existence. We need to ask manufacturers better questions about the chemicals and processes that they use, of what the human and environmental consequences are.

Now is the moment to prevent the next lead hazard in our environment before it targets our children. And we in the states will do our part to shift the marketplace toward chemicals in products and processes that give children the chance they deserve to reach their full potential as a healthy, thriving adults. This consensus renews our commitment to work together towards a healthier future for all children.

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