The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report some 4 million households have children who are exposed to high levels of lead. In fact, half a million children in this country between ages 1 and 5 have above 5 micrograms per deciliter of lead in their blood. No safe level of exposure is known, but this is the point at which the CDC recommends public health action be taken.
Children under 6 are most susceptible to lead poisoning, which the Environmental Protection Agency notes can result in behavior and learning problems, lower IQ and hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing problems and anemia. In some cases, it may even result in seizures, coma and death. Unborn children may suffer reduced growth or premature birth if their mother is exposed to lead during pregnancy.
At the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, our experienced lead injury attorneys in Massachusetts know hundreds of children are poisoned by lead paint each year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Although most people think lead poisoning in children is the result of consuming paint chips, children can become sick by simply inhaling lead dust that lingers in the area.
We are dedicated to ensuring these children and their families secure the help and compensation they need, not only for current and ongoing medical bills and treatments, but also to ensure they have a safe place to reside.
Adults to may suffer ill effects, including poor muscle coordination, nerve damage, high blood pressure and reproductive problems.
Early signs of illness may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach discomfort
- Reduced attention span
Massachusetts Lead Law, codified in 105 C.M.R. 460.000 addresses lead regulations in Massachusetts.
There are many different facets of the law, but the most notable is the requirement to remove or cover any lead pain hazards in residences built prior to 1978 if there are children age 6 or younger living there.
Lead paint hazards can include lead paint that is loose and found on walls, windows and other surfaces where it might be accessible to children. It is the owner of the property who is responsible for ensuring the law is obeyed. This includes not just owners of single-family homes, but also owners of rental properties.
State law requires landlords to notify tenants about the danger of lead paint, and state lead law requirements. Yet despite government assistance and tax credits available to help offset costs, many property owners refuse to go to the trouble, leaving children at risk.
Penalties for failing to adhere to the law are stiff, and owners may also face claims of strict liability for failure to comply with these standards. In these cases, M.G.L. c. 111, s. 199 opens the door for punitive damages (intended to punish the offender), which will subject the defendant to treble (triple) damages.
Unfortunately, state and local inspection programs are frequently insufficient to protect the public. This means tenants must often be first to advocate for their safety and the health of their children. Our experienced legal team can help.
If tenants believe their residence fails to meet the compliance standards, they are instructed to notify the property owner, as well as the local code enforcement agency and/or board of health. While lead paint abatement or containment is taking place on a property, no pregnant women or children under 6 may occupy the dwelling.
Exceptions are granted for those owning short-term vacation or recreational rentals, even when rented for use by children 6 and under, provided the owner or owner’s agent:
- Visually inspects the property for visibly peeling, chipping or flaking paint.
- Immediately addresses problem spots.
- Ensures Vacation Rental Notifications should indicate the dates and findings of visual inspections.
- Makes available contact information for tenant to notify (and receive prompt repair of) peeling or deteriorated paint.
If an owner of such property fails to meet these requirements, he or she can still be subject to liability for lead paint exposure.
Under both state and federal law, property owners and real estate agents have to notify prospective buyers in all sales of homes built prior to 1978 about the potential risk of lead paint exposure, the danger it poses to children and adults, poisoning prevention steps and the requirements of the state’s lead law. These persons must also provide buyers with a copy of a lead inspection and risk report, a letter of compliance, a letter of interim control and inform the buyer about any known lead in the home. New buyers must also be informed that if the home does contain lead and a child under 6 is to reside there, the home must be deleaded or brought into interim control within three months.
The Massachusetts Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program is an important resource for families whose children have suffered the ill effects of lead poisoning. The agency focuses on prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment of lead poisoning.
Bottom line: If a child is poisoned by lead hazards where he or she lives, the owner is legally responsible. There is no rental agreement whereby tenants forfeit their right to pursue action against a landlord for lead paint. Further, landlords can’t discriminate or evict families with children under 6 for purposes of avoiding lead paint abatement and control.
Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman today for a free and confidential consultation.
Call (617) 367-2900 – NO FEE UNLESS SUCCESSFUL