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Housing Built Before 1978 May Contain Lead Paint

Rental Companies Ordered to Pay Fines for Lead Paint Violations

BOSTON, MA -- May 12, 2006 -- A federal judge fined two Rhode Island landlords $220,000 for failing to disclose to tenants that there was lead paint in their rental housing. Four children suffered lead poisoning at these properties.

The decision confirmed a 2004 complaint by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) against Topik Enterprises and Lead and Asbestos Encasement Designs. The companies had ignored four lead abatement orders filed by the Rhode Island Department of Health. They own buildings in low-income neighborhoods where many families have young children, a group that is especially vulnerable to lead exposure.

"Lead poisoning is a serious health threat for children in New England, because so much of our housing is older and may contain lead paint," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England office (EPA Press Release, May 5, 2006). "It is critically important that renters and buyers get the information they need to protect themselves and their children from potential exposure to lead paint."

How Lead Poisoning Occurs

The manufacture of lead paint was not outlawed until 1978. Over 80% of buildings and homes built before that date still contain lead paint, which poses a hazard when it becomes worn and peeling. Small children can then pick up and put lead-containing dust and paint chips in their mouths. Lead paint may also be disturbed through drilling, remodeling or repair work.

Children exposed to lead in their homes may develop learning disabilities and impaired motor skills. They may have decreased attention spans and suffer from memory loss. Pregnant women exposed to lead may give birth to babies with brain disorders. At high levels, lead can even cause seizures and death.

Protecting Your Family Against Lead Poisoning

If you live in a home or apartment built before 1978, you may want to have your child tested to see if he or she has been exposed to harmful levels of lead. Health workers can determine this information by taking a blood sample from your child. The risk of lead poisoning can be lowered somewhat by controlling the level of dust and paint chip debris in your home, so regular house cleaning is recommended.

Lead paint removal may be the solution in some cases. Removal work should be done only by trained, certified, experienced individuals when the family is out of the home. This is also true for remodeling or renovation activities in pre-1978 homes.

For more information about lead poisoning, see an article about lead on the web site of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. These sections are particularly informative: How can lead affect children?, How can families reduce the risk of exposure to lead?, and Is there a medical test to determine whether I have been exposed to lead?. You may also obtain a packet about lead from the National Lead Information Center. The agency's telephone number is 1-800-424-5323.

If a member of your family suffers from lead poisoning, and you would like information about your legal rights, please feel free to contact us. We have been representing victims of toxic substances such as lead for over 20 years, and our initial consultation is free of charge.

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