City passes stricter lead standards

Lead-based paint has been banned since 1978 and can cause high blood pressure.

by Carter Jones

Landlords in Minneapolis have tougher lead poisoning standards to abide by after the Minneapolis City Council passed a provision tightening licensing standards. 
Since 2005, 75 percent of the 4,500 Minneapolis children who have been poisoned by lead-based paint lived in a rental property, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. 
Now, property owners may lose their rental license if they’re found responsible for two lead poisoning cases.
“We’re already seeing a decreased number of lead instances as a result,” said Marty McDonough, director of municipal affairs for the Minnesota Multi Housing Association. 
He said the city’s provision makes the city license standards consistent with the state. 
Lisa Smestad, Minneapolis’ manager for environmental services, said the high level of poisoning cases in rental homes is often because landlords don’t maintain their properties as well as homeowners. 
Smestad said landlords will often use county and city grant programs to fix one property but wouldn’t address their other properties with lead hazards. 
The tougher standards were approved by the City Council in late August. Lead-based paint was banned nationwide in 1978. 
About 80 percent of Minneapolis’ residential buildings were built before the ban.
Childhood lead poisoning is one of the most common preventable health problems in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
Children usually don’t have visible symptoms but damage can lead to mental and behavioral problems. Adults with lead poisoning sometimes suffer from high blood pressure, kidney damage and digestive problems, according to the state health department. 
Minneapolis and Hennepin County both have grant programs for lead hazard reduction to help cover the costs associated with making a property lead safe. 
A property owner qualifies for the grant if they meet the income requirements, a child under the age of six lives in the residence and their residence was built before 1978. 
After a property owner qualifies for the grant, they’re required to take a lead renovation course, said Alex Vollmer project coordinator for Minneapolis. 
He said the homeowner also works with city contractors to replace all hazardous surfaces.
Lead poisoning affects more than 1 million children. 
Every year about 800 children and 400 adults are diagnosed with lead poisoning in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. 
The Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 requires landlords to disclose any information on lead-based paint within the property. 
The paint can be found in many homes built before 1978 but doesn’t become hazardous until it’s chipping or peeling.