Lead Paint Problems Often Linked To Lack of Rental Property Maintenance And Upkeep, Researchers Warn

The findings of a new report highlight the widespread risk of lead paint problems which  may leave children with serious disabilities and health problems, indicating a lack of maintenance and poor conditions in over one-third of Cleveland-area rental properties may expose children to a risk of lead poisoning.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have estimated 535,000 children between the ages of 1 and 5 years old in the U.S. have levels of lead in their blood which put them at risk for adverse health effects, representing about 2.6% of such children.

Lead poisoning is considered one of the most preventable environmental disease among young children, which may result in severe brain injury, seizures, developmental problems, mental disabilities and other life-long complications.

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Children diagnosed with lead poisoning after exposure to peeling or chipping lead paint in a rental home may be entitled to financial compensation and benefits.

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Exposure to lead is often traced back to older homes and apartments that have chipping or pealing lead paint, which young children may purposefully or accidentally ingest. Therefore, in recent decades, health officials have focused on the importance of rehabilitating those rentals and homes to prevent childhood lead exposure.

In a study released by Case Western Reserve University last month, researchers indicate that age, a lack of maintenance and poor conditions are considered to be driving factors in whether a rental unit or home has the potential for lead paint problems.

Researchers sought to determine how many rental properties in the Cleveland area may pose lead poisoning risks for children, looking at the types of owners of the properties, the number they owned, the property values and the conditions of the properties, all of which were built before a 1978 lead paint ban.

According to their findings, more than 103,000 rental units across the city have the potential to have lead contamination. Of those, one-third are in poor condition and have very low market value, making them prime suspects.

“The majority of the city’s rental housing stock carries a significant risk of lead exposure to children because of age, deferred maintenance and low-market value, so understanding the rental landscape is crucial,” study co-author Rob Fischer, wrote in a press release.

The researchers found that nearly half of the city’s rental units are single-family homes, followed by 24% which are two-family homes, 21% in small buildings of 20 units or less, and 12% are large buildings with more than 20 rental units.

On the plus side, they found two-thirds of the city’s rental properties are in above average or good condition, but the rest are of relatively low value and poor condition.

The researchers found that 43% of the city’s landlords had at least one property classified as being in bad condition, and 29% managed a property of “very low market value.”

“Our role is to help property owners—especially those ‘mom-and-pop’ landlords—improve the quality of the units they rent and get their Lead Safe Certification,” Kevin J. Nowak, executive director of CHN Housing Partners, a local lender participating in a Lead Safe Home Fund to provide property owners with resources to make rentals lead safe. “This research helps us better understand their assets and challenges. We are tailoring our grants, loans and incentives to meet property owners where they are, so that they can access the resources they need in a comprehensive, straight-forward way.”

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