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Lead Safe Summit Tackles Toxic Paint In Cleveland



Written by Nick Castele in ideastream.org on 6/21/2019

Can Cleveland prevent its old housing stock from poisoning a new generation of children?

That question is at the heart of today’s Lead Safe Home Summit at the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland downtown. The summit brings together health experts, city officials, nonprofit leaders and others to grapple with how to protect children from lead paint.

Organizers plan sessions on such topics as reading lead exposure data, knowing tenant rights and controlling lead paint hazards. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician who revealed lead poisoning among children in Flint, Michigan, will deliver the keynote address.

“First and foremost, it’s to elevate the issue,” said organizer Andrew Katusin, the United Way’s director of basic needs. “And to help the broad group of stakeholders understand what are the symptoms, how are children and individuals in our community lead poisoned.”

Summit speakers also will discuss the resources are available for children with lead poisoning. Cleveland officials also hope to raise money for a lead safe home fund that would help landlords afford to clean up their properties; one session will detail the development of a funding formula for lead remeidation efforts.

Cleveland’s Long Battle With Lead

Congress banned lead paint in 1978, but the hazard still lurks in the walls and windowsills of many Cleveland homes. Nearly 90 percent of the city’s housing units were built before 1980.

“The lead isn’t going to jump off the wall and get you if the paint’s intact,” said Akbar Tyler, the director of training and healthy homes with Environmental Health Watch. “Impact friction surfaces are the thing we need to address in houses.”

Windows, baseboards, floors and stairs can be a source of lead paint chips and dust without the proper controls, Tyler said.

While the rate of lead poisoning in Cleveland has been falling, the city continues to face difficulties in remediating paint hazards in homes.

As part of ideastream’s “Lead: Crisis Abandoned” series in 2015, city officials acknowledged they only had money to fix properties in which children had been seriously poisoned. The Plain Dealer’s “Toxic Neglect” series showed that how the city struggled to respond to poisoning cases.

New Lead-Safe Legislation

City council took up legislation this month requiring landlords to make their properties safe from lead paint by 2023. The legislation would require landlords to hire inspectors to certify that they’ve controlled any lead hazards in a property, such as by painting over chipped and peeling paint.

Council will hold a hearing on the measure during the summit, with plans to bring it up for a vote by the fall, Councilman Blaine Griffin said.

“The change in legislation requiring everybody to get a lead safe certificate,” EHW’s Tyler said, “this is something that should have been done, and it’s good to see it coming about now.”

CLASH Sues Over Petitions

The advocacy group Cleveland Lead Advocates for Safe Housing sued the clerk of city council last week, asking a judge to compel her to accept the group’s petitions for a lead-safe ordinance.

CLASH had hoped to put the ordinance before council by the city’s initiative process. If council declined to pass the measure, it would have gone to a citywide vote.

But the clerk rejected the petitions on the grounds that the papers lacked a disclaimer required by Ohio law. CLASH leaders have said they will gather signatures again for a second attempt.

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