Share of Lead Poisoning Cases Linked to Properties Not Previously Covered by Maryland Law Grows; Expansion of Properties Covered by the Law Takes Effect in Less Than Three Months

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Jay Apperson
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Share of Lead Poisoning Cases Linked to Properties Not Previously Covered by Maryland Law Grows; Expansion of Properties Covered by the Law Takes Effect in Less Than Three Months

Department of Environment releases 2013 Childhood Lead Registry report; low number of cases overall shows impact of Maryland’s 1994 law; change in law effective January 1 to address growing share of cases in rental units built after 1949; additional change addresses owner-occupied housing

BALTIMORE, MD (September 25, 2014) – Childhood lead poisoning in Maryland remained at a low number last year, but a growing number of new lead poisoning cases are linked to homes that had not been covered by Maryland’s 1994 lead law, a report released today by the Maryland Department of the Environment shows.

key change in Maryland’s lead law – expanding the type of properties covered by the law to include rental units built prior to 1978 – takes effect January 1, 2015. Moving to protect more children from the health risks associated with lead paint poisoning, the Maryland Department of the Environment has begun accepting applications to register properties that will for the first time be required to comply with the provisions of Maryland lead law. 
Another change in Maryland’s lead law allows MDE to seek delegation to administer a federal program that regulates renovations in some owner-occupied homes.

These changes are designed to reduce lead poisoning cases in homes not previously covered under Maryland’s lead law.

MORE INFORMATION

Childhood lead poisoning is a completely preventable disease.

Exposure to lead is the most significant and widespread environmental hazard for children in Maryland. Children are at the greatest risk from birth to age six while their neurological systems are developing. Exposure to lead can cause long-term neurological damage that may be associated with learning and behavioral problems and with decreased intelligence.

The number of childhood lead poisoning cases has decreased by 98 percent since the enactment of Maryland’s landmark 1994 Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing Act, but in recent years an increasing share of new lead poisoning cases have been linked to pre-1978 homes that had not been covered by the law.

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has released the 2013 Maryland Childhood Lead Registry Annual Surveillance Report. The report shows that the percentage of tested young children with blood levels at or above the level that triggers actions under state law remained at about 0.3 percent.

The report also shows that more than 110,000 Maryland children were tested in 2013.

Maryland’s 1994 lead law applies to rental units built before 1950, when lead paint was prohibited in Baltimore City. In Maryland, nearly six of 10 confirmed cases (59 percent) of initial reports of lead poisoning in 2013 involved children living in post-1949 rental housing or owner-occupied housing, compared to 52 percent in 2012.

Because a significant percentage of new childhood lead poisoning cases are linked to homes built after 1949, the Maryland General Assembly passed a bill in 2012, subsequently signed into law by Governor Martin O’Malley, to expand the universe of properties covered under the law to include rental properties built before 1978, when the use of lead paint was prohibited nationally. That change is effective January 1, 2015.

On July 1, 2014, MDE began accepting registration applications for the rental units that will be covered by the law for the first time. Owners of these properties can register them with MDE online at www.mde.maryland.gov/LeadRegistration.

The 2012 legislation also allows MDE to seek delegation to administer a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule that regulates renovations, repairs and painting in homes that were built before 1978, whether they are rental units or owner-occupied, and in pre-1978 facilities with young children. The rule requires contractors who do work on these properties to receive training and use lead-safe work practices. Maryland regulations to allow MDE to administer the federal rule are under development. 

CORE FACTS

MDE’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program serves as the coordinating agency of statewide efforts to eliminate childhood lead poisoning.

Under the Maryland lead law, MDE assures compliance with mandatory requirements for lead risk reduction in rental units built before 1950; maintains a statewide listing of registered and inspected units; and provides blood lead surveillance through a registry of test results of all children tested in Maryland. The Lead Program also: oversees case management follow-up by local health departments for children with elevated blood lead levels; certifies and enforces performance standards for inspectors and contractors conducting lead hazard reduction; and performs environmental investigations of lead poisoned children. The Lead Program provides oversight for community education to parents, tenants, rental property owners, home owners and health care providers to enhance their roles in lead poisoning prevention.

Among other data, the annual Childhood Lead Registry survey compiles all blood lead tests conducted on Maryland children up to 18 years of age, and provides blood lead test results to local health departments as needed for case management and planning. Only the data for children under the age of 6 years is used for review of the lead poisoning prevention effort. MDE has compiled this comprehensive assessment on statewide childhood blood lead screening since 1993.

Key statistics from the 2013 Childhood Lead Registry annual survey include:

  • Statewide, 110,082 children under the age of 6 were tested, which is a slight decrease from the 2012 figure of 110,539. In Baltimore City, 18,535 children were tested, a decrease from 18,717 in 2012.
  • Statewide, 371 children (or 0.3 percent of those tested) had a blood lead level of 10 micrograms per deciliter or above. This is slightly higher than the analogous figure of 364 (0.3 percent) for 2012. In Baltimore City, 218 children (or 1.2 percent of those tested) had a blood lead level of 10 micrograms per deciliter or above, which is a slight decrease from 219 (1.2 percent) in 2012.
  • Of the 371 cases statewide for 2013, 304 were new cases. Of the 218 cases in Baltimore City, 170 were new cases.
  • Of the children in Maryland counties outside of Baltimore City with a first test through the more reliable venous method showing a blood lead level of 10 micrograms per deciliter or above, 75.2 percent lived in homes other than pre-1950 residential rental units. The analogous figure for Baltimore City for 2013 was 47.8 percent.

In Maryland, 17.9 percent of confirmed cases of an initial report of lead poisoning in 2013 involved children living in post-1949 rental housing, compared to 16.1 percent in 2012. In Maryland counties outside of Baltimore City, about four out of 10 confirmed cases of an initial report of lead poisoning in the past three years involved children living in post-1949 rental housing.

2011 MDE study found that properties built between 1950 and 1960 have an 80 percent likelihood of containing lead-based paint. This likelihood declines rapidly for properties built after 1960 until use of lead paint was prohibited in 1978.

Maryland’s 1994 Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing Act requires owners of pre-1950 rental dwelling units to register their properties and reduce the potential for children’s exposure to lead paint hazards by performing specific lead risk reduction treatments prior to each change in tenancy. House Bill 644, passed by the Maryland General Assembly in 2012 and signed into law by Governor O’Malley, requires owners of rental properties built before 1978, when the use of lead paint was prohibited, to register these properties and take steps toward reducing the risk of lead poisoning beginning in January 2015. In addition, the legislation raised the annual registration fee to $30 per year per rental unit. 

The number of properties affected by the change in the law (rental properties built from 1950 up to 1978) is estimated at more than 250,000.

Failure to register, certify or follow approved lead-safe work practices may subject property owners to thousands of dollars in fines and potential lawsuits.

 

QUOTES

“Through Maryland’s highly successful lead program and 20 years of prevention and outreach, we have reduced lead poisoning by more than 98 percent. But this disease is completely preventable. We cannot and will not let up in our work to eliminate childhood lead poisoning in our state.”

— Robert M. Summers, Secretary, Maryland Department of the Environment

 “Working with our partners, including Baltimore City and the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative, Maryland has made significant gains to protect our children, particularly those who live in older rental housing. But a significant number of lead poisoning cases in Maryland are linked to newer rental housing. The change in Maryland’s lead law will allow us to prevent more children from suffering the effects of lead poisoning.”

— Robert M. Summers, Secretary, Maryland Department of the Environment

 

“It’s time for additional measures to further reduce lead poisoning in Maryland. We’ve made a lot of progress, but we cannot stop until we have eliminated childhood lead poisoning.”

— Joshua M. Sharfstein, Secretary, Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene

 

 “The expansion of Maryland’s Lead Risk Reduction Laws on January 1, 2015, to include pre-1978 rental units will bring Maryland in alignment with the 1977 federal law banning the residential use of lead-based paint and require lead dust clearance testing. This comprehensive set of laws and policies will protect the vulnerable families living in Maryland’s at risk properties and lessen the state’s rate of childhood lead poisoning.”

— Ruth Ann Norton, President and CEO of Green & Healthy Homes Initiative 

 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

 

 

MDE MISSION

Our mission is to protect and restore the quality of Maryland’s air, water and land resources, while fostering smart growth, a thriving and sustainable economy and healthy communities.

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