Four Steps Property Management Can Take to Help Prevent Lead Paint Poisoning


The Environmental Protection Agency’s National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, running October 20-26, 2013, is a perfect time for property owners and managers to get the lead out, or at least start making plans.

A common source of lead poisoning is from lead-based paints, which were used in abundance in the housing industry prior to the late 1970s. Many apartments in inventory today were built at a time when lead paint was most commonly used to paint exteriors and interiors.

Lead poisoning from these paints is an invisible danger that landlords face but can avoid with proper care and attention. Ignoring a lead-based paint problem can be particularly dreadful, and expensive.

Children and adults, especially in large cities with high populations, are particularly susceptible to issues with old lead-based paint. A recent Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report found that 35 percent of African-American children living in inner cities with more than 1 million people had blood levels greater than 5 μg/dL of lead, which is the CDC’s action level established in 2012.

In children, incidents of lead paint poisoning are potentially higher. The effects can lead to permanent brain damage and nervous disorders that cause behavior and learning problems. Also, adults may suffer a number of health effects, including damage to the nervous and cardiovascular systems, as well as decreased kidney function and reproductive problems.

Lead Paint Problems Can Lead to Litigation

In recent years, landlords have paid the consequences for not maintaining safe lead-based paint environments or properly eliminating the hazardous source.

In 2009, a team of New York lawyers won a $4.6 million lawsuit brought against a landlord on behalf of a child poisoned at age 4 from the apartment building’s lead paint. Litigation in other cases has been ongoing since: A judge’s ruling is expected soon in a 13-year-old California lawsuit brought against paint manufacturers that produced lead-based paint.

Lead paint and other sources of lead poisoning should not be taken lightly by property owners and property management companies. Following are four tips from the EPA that you should be aware of to help prevent lead paint poisoning:

1. Educate residents about the consequences of lead poisoning

The EPA offers a number of educational materials to inform the general public about lead poisoning in general. Other federal agencies, like the CDC and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), annually host education and awareness events.

2. Disclose Lead Paint Exposure to Residents and Prospects

Apartments built before 1978 that contain lead paint are subject to disclosure in the event of sale or lease. The Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act, also known as Title X, protects families from exposure to lead from paint, dust, and soil. Failure to disclose can lead to serious consequences.

3. Hire RRP Professionals for Renovations Affecting Lead-Based Paint

Federal Law requires that landlords hire a US EPA Renovate, Repair & Paint (RRP) certified professional to perform renovation work in a pre-1978 residence, any EPA RRP certified firm can do the job. If the property was built prior to 1978, you must assume it contains lead-based paint unless you have a report from a certified lead risk assessor indicating that the property has been properly tested and does not contain any lead-based paint. Private laboratories or public agencies can test properties for lead paint and provide additional information for remediation. Avoid employing your maintenance team to remove lead-based paint unless your staff is EPA RRP certified. You can locate certified firms in your area on the EPA RRP website.

4. Conduct Peeling and Chipped Paint Inspections

The lead that was added to paint served a few different purposes, it brightened some colors but most importantly it increased the durability of the paint. Lead paint will stay adherent and flexible much longer than other paints. But after 30 or 40 years even lead paint begins to peel, crack and chip. On apartment properties built prior to 1978, do periodic inspections to check for chipping or peeling paint. Lead paint in good condition is not a problem, but any deterioration of it creates the potential for lead poisoning. If chipped or cracked lead paint is found, immediately have it addressed by an RRP certified firm. Also, look for areas where painted surfaces – like windows and doors – come into contact with each other. The friction can create lead dust. Once lead paint begins to deteriorate it becomes very easy for small children to put it in their mouth, and the lead is sweet. So many times children will continue to “eat” the paint chips because it tastes good.

Lead poisoning prevention is up to the apartment property owner. Proper attention to apartments that have lead-based paint or other potential hazards will ensure residents’ safety and avoid costly lawsuits.


Image source: iStock



Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

author photo two

Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

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