By Fred Hemmila
The Lead Law protects a child’s right to a lead-safe home. Homes built before 1978 may contain lead paint. Renovation or repair work on these homes can create lead dust, fumes, and debris. This may cause lead poisoning in children and adults.
Hundreds of young children are poisoned by lead paint in Massachusetts each year. Children under the age of six are at the highest risk for lead poisoning. Lead poisoning can cause permanent damage to a child’s brain, kidneys, and nervous system. It can also result in serious learning and behavior problems.
Children are poisoned more often by ingesting dust from lead paint than by eating chips or chewing on painted surfaces. Lead dust covers surfaces and objects that children touch and clings to their hands and toys. Children ingest lead dust when they put their hands or toys in their mouths, which is normal behavior for all young children.
High lead levels in adults can cause health problems including high blood pressure, headaches, memory and concentration problems, kidney damage, mood changes, sleep problems and muscle or joint pain.
What does the lead law require?
The Lead Law requires the removal or covering of lead paint hazards in homes built before 1978 where any children under six live. Lead paint hazards include loose lead paint and lead paint on windows and other surfaces accessible to children. Owners are responsible with complying with the law. This includes owners of rental property as well as owners living in their own single family home. Financial help is available through tax credits, grants and loans.
How does an owner comply with the lead law?
There are two ways:
1) Have all lead hazards removed or covered. The owner must first hire a licensed lead inspector who will test the home for lead and record all lead hazards. After the work is approved, the owner will receive a Letter of Full Compliance.
2) Have only urgent lead hazards corrected, while controlling remaining hazards. This temporary method is called interim control. The owner must first hire a licensed risk assessor who will explain what work needs to be done for interim control.
After the work is approved, the owner will receive a Letter of Interim Control. Owners then have up to two years before they must have the remaining lead hazards removed or covered and receive a Letter of Full Compliance.
Who can remove or cover lead hazards?
Some work must be done by a licensed deleader. However, an owner or agent (someone working for an owner without a deleader’s license) can perform some specific tasks. An owner or agent cannot begin any of those tasks until:
The home is inspected by a licensed lead inspector
The owner or agent is properly trained to perform the deleading work
For more information about what work may be done by an owner or agent and how to become trained, call the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 1-800-532-9571
Can a rental property owner be held liable for a lead poisoned child?
Yes. If a child is lead poisoned by lead hazards where the child lives, the owner is legally responsible. An owner cannot avoid liability by asking tenants to sign an agreement that they accept the presence of lead paint. Complying with the Lead Law is the best protection an owner has from liability.
Can an owner evict or refuse to rent to a family with children under six if there is lead paint in the home?
No. An owner cannot evict or refuse to rent to anyone because of lead paint. Discrimination is against the law and carries penalties.
Source: Massachusetts Department of Public Health
Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (CLPPP)
Lead Paint Inspections by Fred Hemmila
Fred Hemmila has been providing lead paint inspections on Cape Cod since 1992. He has completed thousands of inspections for homeowners, contractors and public and private agencies. Licensed and insured, he uses a high tech device to detect lead paint.
Contact him at 508-888-8378 or go to www.fredhemmila.com “If there’s a question of lead, call Fred”