Feds Withholding Info on Lead-Contaminated Public Housing

If the comments of a senior federal housing official, captured on videotape, are to be believed, the government is withholding information on public-housing sites around the country that are contaminated by lead paint. Joseph Smith, deputy director of the Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, told a group of top managers that he had a list of some 16,500 sites, including many public-housing projects, where children had been diagnosed with lead poisoning. He said he had planned to issue a press release on the list, but was discouraged by the HUD secretary’s staff. Smith’s remarks were captured on videotape and broadcast to HUD offices around the country. Since then, as one might imagine, federal officials have been backpedaling furiously. HUD spokesperson Brian Sullivan said the idea that the department is withholding information is “absolutely and totally false,” but he said the list of contaminated sites cannot be made public at this time, and he was not sure when it could be.