Prior to 1978, lead, a very toxic metal found in the Earth’s crust, was used in products in many homes, schools, and office buildings across the country. Lead is present in a number of sources, but it is most commonly found in paint chips (from peeling paint on walls, furniture, or toys), soil surrounding the home, household dust (accumulated from contaminated soil or deteriorating paint), or in the air when it is released during certain industrial processes. Lead can enter the human body when a person consumes paint chips containing lead, drinks lead-contaminated water, or inhales or ingests lead dust.
Deteriorating lead-based paint is one of the leading sources of lead poisoning, so it is important that District residents who live in older buildings know the facts about the potential risks of lead. Lead is especially harmful to children because their bodies absorb more lead, and their brains and nervous systems are more easily damaged by lead’s effects. Children suffering from elevated levels of lead may experience brain damage, behavior or learning problems, hearing loss, and slowed growth. Recent research has shown that even relatively low levels of lead in blood can cause adverse health effects in young children. Adults exposed to lead may suffer nerve disorders, joint pain, memory problems, and reproductive problems. And because lead crosses the placenta, pregnant women who are exposed to lead pass that lead straight to the fetus.
Federal law requires that contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb more than six square feet of paint in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978 need to be certified and trained to follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination. If lead based paint is removed improperly from a home the health risks can actually be elevated for its residents. The District of Columbia’s Lead-Hazard Prevention and Elimination Act of 2008 and recent amendments to the act extend federal law with stronger protections for pregnant women and children under age six. The Act considers any paint in or on a pre-1978 residential property or “child-occupied facility” (such as a daycare or kindergarten classroom) to be lead-based paint. Under the Act, landlords must provide proof of lead safety to prospective tenants that include a child under six years of age or a pregnant woman. Both Federal and District law also require that landlords inform tenants about any known lead paint hazards in the building, and District officials are authorized to require that landlords pay for temporary relocation of tenants pending elimination of identified lead-based paint hazards, if conditions warrant it.
How is the indicator defined? How often updated?
The indicator is defined by the number of homes that have been made lead-paint-hazard-free through DDOE enforcement work. The data is updated annually by the District Department of the Environment.
What influences this indicator?
District landlords’ level of compliance with the District lead law certainly influences this indicator, in addition to residents’ level of awareness about lead paint hazards. The amount of funding for lead-based paint hazard remediation work also plays a role in the number of homes that are made lead-paint-hazard free.
What you can do to help:
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