By Tim Devaney - 01-12-17 10:20 AM EST
Ben Carson on Thursday said his medical background gives him useful experience to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), drawing a parallel between health and housing.
Testifying before the Senate Banking Committee, the retired neurosurgeon and former GOP presidential candidate called for a "strong healthy foundation in the home."
"There is a strong connection between housing and health, which is of course my background," Carson told lawmakers, according to prepared remarks.
"Where one lives should not cause health problems."
President-elect Donald Trump nominated Carson on Dec. 5, 2016, to lead HUD.
Carson, who has never held a government post, addressed concerns from members of the committee about his ability to run an agency with a $48 billion budget.
"Many members of this committee with whom I've met have asked me why I would want to run HUD. It's a good question. I want to help heal America's divisiveness, and I think HUD is positioned to help in that healing," he said.
"One of our biggest threats right now is this political division, racial conflict, and class warfare. I see HUD as part of the solution, helping ensure housing security and strong communities," Carson continued.
"HUD has several different ways it helps people, through [ensuring] financing for that first home to helping those in poverty, which has been an intractable problem for decades."
In his testimony, Carson expressed particular concern about lead poisoning in the housing sector. His home state of Michigan has faced scrutiny for lead contamination in the drinking water in Flint.
"Most Americans spend about 90 percent of their time indoors, and an estimated two-thirds of that time is spent in the home," Carson said. "Very young children spend even more time at home and are especially vulnerable to household hazards."
"I can tell you that lead poisoning irreversibly affects brain and nervous system development, resulting in lower intelligence and reading disabilities," he added.