Advocates of a new lead-poisoning ordinance rolled out their plan Wednesday to require older rental properties in Toledo to be inspected and certified as free of a lead hazard.
Lawyer Robert Cole, of Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, or ABLE, told council members the ordinance aims for the lowest standard that can reduce lead poisoning among Toledo’s children and still win City Council passage.
He emphasized the social cost of lead poisoning on young children. It can result in cognitive damage, loss of impulse control, and a greater need for special education services.
“We can really improve not only the housing conditions but the educational and economic outlook for the children living in this city,” Mr. Cole said.
A 2012 study by the Ohio Department of Health found 102 cases of childhood lead poisoning in Toledo. Tests were positive in 2.06 percent of cases tested, the second-highest rate in Ohio, after Cleveland.
Critics who took their turns at the microphone during Wednesday’s hearing by the neighborhoods, community development, and health committee said the legislation would make it more expensive to live and do business in Toledo. They said education and enforcement of existing laws would achieve the same goals.
The Toledo Lead-Safe Housing ordinance, developed by the citizen group Toledoans United for Social Action, or TUSA, would require owners of rental property built before 1978 to have their property inspected for deteriorated paint, exposed soil, and lead-contaminated dust. Each inspection would have to be recorded in a new rental property registry with the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department.
Mr. Cole said that the law would focus first on the areas known to have the highest concentrations of lead, which also have the highest concentrations of African-American residents.
Mr. Cole said property owners would only have to paint over deteriorated paint and cover open dirt within three feet of the house with grass or mulch. He said lead in the soil is tracked into houses, where small children have a tendency to put things in their mouths. Dust samples would have to be taken in four rooms and tested at a state-licensed laboratory.
“If they do the work themselves, the cost is very minimal,” Mr. Cole said. “Owners can get training to assess and eliminate the hazard themselves.”
He put the cost at from zero to up to $1,400. Traditional abatement or removal of lead paint costs about $10,000 per dwelling, Department of Neighborhoods Director Tom Kroma said.
Anna Mills, president of Toledo Real Estate Investors Association, said landlords already have several registries to comply with. She said the city gets a lead abatement grant every year and has a hard time giving the money away.
“We’re against any forced regulations of this kind,” said Ms. Mills, who owns rental property and said she is a licensed lead abatement contractor. “You have to add two zeroes to everything they say” about cost.
Committee Chairman Jack Ford said he was exploring ways the city could help rental property owners reduce the cost of complying with the law, such as giving them mulch and paint or subsidizing the costs with block grant funds. “I think we have a responsibility to try to mediate that as much as we can,” Mr. Ford said.
TUSA and ABLE are planning a Lead Poisoning Prevention Summit sometime in September.
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