Julián Castro, the former Housing and Urban Development secretary, laid out his plan Monday to “eliminate lead poisoning as a major public health threat” in America — becoming the first 2020 presidential hopeful to announce a dedicated plan on the issue.
Castro’s proposal, first reported by BuzzFeed, comes on the heels of the Democrat’s weekend visit to Flint, Michigan, where a water crisis has plagued — and sickened — residents since 2014, when the city’s drinking water source was switched to the Flint River as a cost-cutting measure.
“Today I’m putting forward a plan to combat lead exposure across the country, and to ensure that no families experience what those in Flint have had to endure,” Castro told BuzzFeed in a statement.
Castro’s plan, which can now be found on his campaign website, includes the establishment of a presidential task force on the issue and a national assessment of communities at risk of lead poisoning. Castro said he would ask Congress for $5 billion per year for 10 years to reduce such risk “in areas of highest need” and would take steps to ensure that federal funds and other support would be immediately available if another lead emergency should arise.
For families with children with elevated blood lead levels, Castro said support would be provided to them in the way of “counseling, tutoring, education on nutritional needs and other interventions.”
Castro toured Flint on Saturday with Mayor Karen Weaver and U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.). He said he was in the city “to hear about the progress that still needs to be made in the community, and to let them know that we haven’t forgotten about them.”
To this day, Flint residents are advised to only drink filtered tap water or bottled water.
Contaminated tap water is a problem that extends far beyond Michigan’s borders.
According to a March National Geographic report, a quarter of Americans drink water from systems that don’t meet safety standards. A Harvard study in January warned that millions of children across the country may be drinking lead-contaminated water in their schools.