Feb 15, 2016
Thousands of poor Baltimore City and Maryland children are still being poisoned by lead paint. Yet this problem of lead paint poisoning was supposedly dealt with years ago, first by the banning of lead in paint in 1978 and then by regulations requiring all houses and apartments to be inspected and made safe (from lead paint) before they could be sold or rented.
At a recent hearing, the Baltimore City health commissioner estimated 50,000 children under the age of six were still at risk in the city and thousands more throughout the state of Maryland. Every year, 400 to 500 new cases of lead paint poisoning appear, meaning damage to the growing child’s brain and body.
A journalist’s investigation in December found that two-thirds of the lead paint poisoning cases come from homes built before 1950. Records are not kept on all properties rented, and the city also has few inspectors. In fact, inspections don’t take place until there is a case of lead paint poisoning to check up on – more than a little too late!
The Maryland Department of the Environment does not have a registry of properties that is up-to-date. Thousands of homes drop off the list, stop paying the registration fee, with no explanation and no one to check what has happened.
Last summer, Kenneth Holt, the Maryland secretary for housing and community development, claimed publicly there probably was no lead-paint crisis in Baltimore City. Baltimore women, he said, were faking lead paint poisoning by putting “a lead fishing weight in her child’s mouth, then take the child in for testing.” He claimed mothers are putting their children at risk in order to get better housing. As if a landlord is not legally responsible for renting lead-paint free housing in the first place!
But will the city and state step up and stop entirely preventable damage to poor children? They’ve had the chance ever since lead was shown to be damaging to children in the 1920s. All they’ve done is make it easier for companies to escape prosecution, or even detection.