Thursday, May 24, 2018
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An even greater duty

Toledo’s lead-safe ordinance was passed to save young lives. Those young lives haven’t stopped mattering because the city doesn’t have its act together.

Officials from the city and the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department have now admitted there is probably no way to get all the covered rental properties in the city inspected by the ordinance’s Sept. 17 deadline.

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The ordinance requires single-family, duplex, and rental properties with one to four units built before 1978, along with day-care centers, to be inspected and get a “lead-safe certificate” from the health department before tenants can move in. If a unit passes the inspection, the landlord will get a certificate good for six years. If a unit fails, the property owner must take temporary measures to reduce lead risk in the home, including painting, cleaning, and repairs.

The fault here is that city council approved an ordinance without fully considering the infrastructure that would be necessary to train inspectors and deploy them to check for lead in the 50,000 affected properties. So far, only about 40 properties have been inspected.

Since the obstacles have been revealed, opponents of the ordinance have once again begun calling for city council to roll back its provisions. Most notably, they want to do away with the requirement for inspectors to not only visually inspect properties for peeling paint and other hazards, but swab surfaces with dust wipes, which will then be tested for lead. A visual inspection should be enough, they say.

No, a visual inspection is not enough. An inspector can’t tell if paint or dust has lead in it with the naked eye.

An ordinance that doesn’t require dust-wipe testing would be an even bigger waste of time and money — not to mention an abdication of our responsibility to children living in these homes — than the ordinance as it is exists now.

It is shameful enough that elected and administrative officials didn’t have their ducks in a row when the ordinance was passed. It is inexcusable that the city has been unable to train inspectors and create the administrative framework to implement the ordinance in the year since city council approved it.

The council and the city now have an even greater obligation to keep their word and make the lead ordinance work to protect young lives.

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