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Synthesis/Regeneration 41   (Fall 2006)

Some Laws on Lead

National Center for Healthy Housing

Massachusetts Lead Law

Massachusetts enacted one of the nation’s first state lead poisoning prevention laws in 1971. The original statute embodied the principle of primary prevention which remains at the heart of the current law. Since 1971, Massachusetts property owners have been required to permanently control specified lead-based paint lead hazards in any housing unit in which a child under the age of six resides. The 1971 law provided for enforcement of this duty by both a newly created state Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program within the Department of Public Health and by local boards of health. In addition, the law enlisted the help of the tort system for enforcement by providing that property owners would be “strictly liable” for damages resulting from failure to make a child’s apartment lead-safe. (Strict liability means that owners are liable even if they did not know that lead-based paint hazards were present.)

The law was revised in 1987 in three ways. First, the amendments sought to improve the quality and safety of abatement work by requiring use of trained and licensed contractors, relocation of occupants during abatement, and daily and final cleanup in units undergoing abatement. Second, the amendments were designed to substantially increase the number of units brought into compliance by providing financial assistance (a $1,000 state income tax credit and a grant/loan program) and mandating that prospective purchasers of residential premises receive notice about the lead law and have the opportunity to get an inspection. Finally, the amendments embraced the principle of universal blood lead screening, mandating that physicians screen children and that health insurers cover screening costs.

In 1993, the law was further amended. Compliance costs were lowered by allowing owners to use interim controls for up to two years before permanently containing or abating lead-based paint hazards. Other cost-reducing provisions allowed the use of encapsulants and eased safety precautions when children would not be endangered. Owners were provided with a larger $1,500/unit state income tax credit and a new state fund was set up to provide funds for lead hazard control. Finally, owners who obtain certification from a licensed inspector that interim controls or abatement have been performed are no longer held strictly liable and insurers are required to provide coverage for any negligence claims (short of gross or willful negligence) that may be brought against such owners.

Milwaukee Pilot Project Lead Ordinance

In March 1999, the Milwaukee City Council unanimously approved a Community Lead Safe Zones ordinance, a highly targeted three-year pilot project to control lead paint hazards in pre-1950 residential rental properties in two areas of the city. Lead poisoning rates in the neighborhoods affected by this ordinance are as high as 66% and almost all the dwellings in these areas were built before 1950. One target area is predominantly African-American and the other is predominantly Hispanic. Together these areas contain about 1,000 units of pre-1950 rental housing.

Under the law, owners must control any lead paint hazards, pass a health department risk assessment or reinspection, and procure a lead-based paint hazard control certificate by May 1, 2000. Certificates are valid for varied terms, depending on the method of hazard control used. The law also authorizes the city to do lead hazard controls in properties that are out of compliance and levy a charge against the property for up to 40% of the value of the property. The ordinance requires owners to do lead abatement for deteriorated windows, to stabilize other deteriorated lead paint surfaces, and to maintain the units through essential maintenance practices. Funds from a recently-awarded $3 million grant from HUD will be available to owners affected by the ordinance to cover the cost of window treatments (which must be performed by a state-certified contractor) and half the cost of the full scope of work if it is conducted by certified contractors.

Following the owner’s application, the health department will perform a risk assessment and develop a scope of work for the project. The department also will perform a reinspection whenever a certificate is expiring or when the department believes a lead hazard may be present. Retaliation against tenants who complain to the landlord or the health department is prohibited. Whenever a reinspection shows that the unit does not meet the department’s standards for lead safety, any current certificate will be suspended until the unit is brought up to standard. All risk assessments and reinspections are performed by the health department free of charge. The law also requires owners to perform a visual inspection of units and perform “essential maintenance practices” if needed whenever tenants notify them about a suspected lead hazard and whenever tenants vacate units.

Enactment of the Milwaukee ordinance is a major victory for local advocates who conducted an intensive organizing campaign led by Wisconsin Citizen Action. The Milwaukee Health Department assisted in the development of the ordinance. For further information, please contact Juan Carlos Ruiz of Wisconsin Citizen Action at 414-272-2562 or Sharon Pendleton, Milwaukee Lead Program Coordinator, at 414-286-5033.

San Francisco Lead-Based Paint Ordinance

Effective January 5, 1998, legislation was passed by the Board of Supervisors and signed by the Mayor which amends the San Francisco Building Code (SFBC Ch. 36). The new ordinance governs activities that disturb or remove painted surfaces on the exterior of the buildings and steel structures built before December 31, 1978. The owner or the contractor must:

It is the owner’s responsibility to:

The owner or the contractor must:

Copies of necessary forms and signs may be downloaded from the Department of Public Health’s website at www.nettop.com/sfeh

Building exteriors do not have to be tested for lead, but if the building was built before 1979, lead paint must be presumed to be present. Open flame burning or torching, including propane fueled heat grids; scraping, sanding, grinding, abrasive blasting or sand-blasting without containment or a HEPA local vacuum exhaust tool; uncontrolled hydroblasting or high pressure wash; and heat guns operating above 1,700 F are prohibited.

The responsible party will face one or more penalties if they do not comply:

For questions regarding the Exterior Led Paint Work Practices Ordinance, contact the Department of Building Inspection, Lead Hazard Reduction Program, at 415-558-6598

Note. The above are three of several descriptions of state and municipal laws on the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) website: http://www.centerforhealthyhousing.org/html/regs.html They are reprinted with permission of NCHH. There may be updates to laws which local governments have not sent to HCHH.

[1 jan 07]

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