Department of the Environment investigating issuance of lead-free certificates
Baltimore, MD (January 28, 2016) – The Maryland Department of the Environment, in coordination with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has opened an investigation to determine whether rental properties certified by a private inspector as having no lead paint are actually free of the material.
The Department is sending letters to residents of more than 300 properties that were certified lead-free by the inspector to inform them of the investigation and advise those with young children to consult with their primary care physician on the need for testing for lead exposure.
The Department is making arrangements for properties that were certified lead-free by the private inspector between 2010 and 2014 to be retested to determine whether they are lead-free. The Department is also sending letters to the owners of these properties to inform them of the investigation and to encourage them to have their properties retested. A review of the Department’s records of children tested for exposure to lead from 2010 to present identified no children living at the addresses in question with a blood lead level at or above the Centers for Disease Control’s established reference level.
The Department has invalidated seven lead-free certificates issued by the private inspector after finding lead paint in the properties or noting that surfaces that should have been tested were not. These findings prompted the wider investigation. The Department is conducting this investigation in coordination with the EPA and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Letters are being sent to the residents and owners of 384 Maryland properties certified lead-free by the private inspection contractor between 2010 and 2014, when the inspector’s accreditation expired. The largest number of properties is in Prince George’s County. Other properties are in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Charles, Howard, Montgomery and St. Mary’s counties and Baltimore City. Current residents of the properties are being asked to complete an online survey that includes questions on the number of young children living in the home and the condition of paint in the residence. For a list of addresses to which letters are being mailed click here. For further information, the public may call the Department at 410-537-3825.
The Department of the Environment is the primary state agency responsible for preventing childhood lead poisoning in Maryland. Since Maryland’s lead law was enacted in 1994, the number of childhood lead poisoning cases in the State has decreased by 98 percent. The Department is providing public notice of this investigation out of an abundance of caution.
Under Maryland’s lead law, owners of rental units built before 1978 must take certain steps to reduce the risk of lead exposure. State law allows owners of these properties to be exempt from risk reduction requirements by certifying that the rental units are free of lead paint. Such certifications are issued by private inspectors that are accredited by the Department of the Environment.
The Department’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program received a complaint concerning the validity of a lead-free certificate issued by the private inspector. After that certificate was determined to be invalid, the Department conducted inspections of additional properties that had been certified lead-free by the private inspection contractor, leading to the invalidation of six more certificates. As a result, the Department issued a Notice of Violation with Penalty to American Homeowner Services LLC, of Lusby, Maryland, with a settlement offer that included payment of a $5,000 penalty. That penalty has been paid. All of the invalidated certificates were issued by one private inspector.
Lead poisoning is the number one environmental health threat in the United States for children 6 and younger. Residents of homes built prior to 1978 may have lead around their home without knowing it because you can’t see, taste or smell lead. Because it does not break down naturally, lead can remain a problem until it is removed.
Below are tips for residents and homeowners to use to better protect their families from lead:
Get your child tested. Even children who appear healthy may have high levels of lead. A blood test takes only 10 minutes, and results should be ready within a week. Blood tests are usually recommended for children at ages one and two.
Keep your home clean. Ordinary dust and dirt may contain lead. Children can swallow lead or breathe lead contaminated dust if they play in dust or dirt and then put their fingers or toys in their mouths, or if they eat without washing their hands first.
Reduce the risk from lead paint. Most homes built before 1978 contain lead paint. This paint could be on window frames, walls, the outside of your house, or other surfaces. Tiny pieces of peeling or chipping paint are dangerous if eaten. Lead paint in good condition is not usually a problem except in places where painted surfaces rub against each other and create dust. Make sure your child does not chew on anything covered with lead paint, such as painted window sills, cribs or playpens.
Don’t remove lead paint yourself. Lead dust from repairs or renovations of older buildings can remain in the building long after the work is completed. Hire a person with special training to remove lead paint from your home.
Eat right. A child who gets enough iron and calcium will absorb less lead. Foods rich in iron include eggs, lean red meat, and beans. Dairy products are high in calcium. Don’t store food or liquid in lead crystal glassware or imported or old pottery. If you reuse plastic bags to store or carry food, keep the printing on the outside of the bag.
For more information about lead safety, go to mde.maryland.gov/lead and http://www.epa.gov/lead or call the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD.
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