Landlords want state to control lead poisoning laws; local approaches have proven more effective

By Rachel Dissell, Brie Zeltner,
Cleveland Plain Dealer

Plenty of state laws already take aim at lead poisoning: requiring children in “high risk” areas to be tested for lead, governing how investigators who respond to poisoning cases are trained and mandating that properties be investigated after a child is poisoned, said David Norris of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University.

Unfortunately, the laws are reactionary, meaning that they come into play when a child has already been poisoned, said Norris, who has studied lead poisoning patterns and poisoning levels in Toledo and Cleveland.

Current state law does not proactively address the root cause of lead poisoning cases: deteriorating lead paint that is more likely to be present in older housing that is not maintained. The problem disproportionately affects African American and low-income families in all of Ohio’s urban areas, Norris said.

In 2015, more than 12 percent of children under 6 who were tested had elevated levels of lead in their blood. Most kids weren’t tested.

“Clearly, having the same (state) laws for everyone in this case, hasn’t worked. We continue to have children injured, and often permanently impaired, by a toxic hazard that was outlawed nearly 40 years ago,” Norris said.

Cities, like Toledo, Norris said, decided that status quo is not good enough for their kids by taking a home-rule approach, which allows them to do more.

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The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity was established in 2003 as a center for interdisciplinary research at The Ohio State University. The Kirwan Institute works to create a just and inclusive society where all people and communities have opportunity to succeed.