City of Columbus Suing Landlords for Lead Paint Hazards

After years of landlords not addressing city orders to address hazardous lead paint, this May the Ohio Department of Health is requiring 51 residential properties in Columbus to be vacated due to the hazards. Now, public-health officials and Columbus city attorneys are preparing dozens of court cases against the landlords en masse, compiling up to 60 cases to file against property owners.

The 51 Columbus residences were among 540 on a state registry of owners who had failed to comply.

Those 51 properties far understate the problem of lead poisoning in central Ohio, said David Norris, senior researcher at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University. He said an OSU analysis determined that at any given time in Franklin County, about 5,500 children younger than 6 suffer from lead poisoning.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead Renovator Training aims to address the dangers of lead poisoning, especially in children like these, by training everybody performing renovation, repair, or painting work in any pre-1978 child-occupied-facility.

Houses built before 1978, and especially those built before 1950, are likely to have lead paint. Children are poisoned when they ingest paint chips or inhale paint dust. That can affect the nervous system, leading to a lower IQ, delayed growth, poor hearing and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders, according to the state health department. In extreme cases, lead poisoning can cause mental retardation, convulsions, coma and death.

The specific regulations for Lead Certification Ohio attempt to prevent these damaging long-term effects. Damaging results from lead exposure are ultimately avoidable but irreversible and, unfortunately, often undiagnosed until it is too late. Lead is present all over our cities, yet properties frequently do not get tested until after children test high for blood lead levels.

Franklinton resident Destinee Blackburn and her four children live in one of the the 51 houses that were ordered vacated. It’s owned by her grandmother. Tests have found high levels of lead in the blood of two of her children. The city placed a warning sign on her front door in November.

She has been trying to move but said landlords she has contacted don’t want their properties checked for lead, a requirement they must meet before the city will offer her assistance with her move. “Landlords don’t want to deal with it,” Blackburn said.

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