top of page

Is your landlord liable for lead poisoning?

Lead poisoning is still a health risk in low-income communities. According to the CDC, Children from low-income households and those who live in housing built before 1978 are at the greatest risk of lead exposure. Houses built before 1978, the time before the use of lead in paint was banned, and houses in low-income areas, many of which have homes built before 1978, are more likely to contain lead-based paint and have pipes, faucets, and plumbing fixtures containing lead. Also, some African American persons are at a higher risk of lead exposure due to poor housing stock.

The law office of Lipsitz, Ponterio & Comerford LLC reported that a jury returned a verdict of $220,000 for a 23-year-old woman. The woman, who had lead poisoning, resided in rental properties in Rochester at the ages of three and six years old. The CDC reports children less than six years old are at a higher risk of lead exposure. This is because their bodies are rapidly developing and more susceptible to taking in lead if exposed. Young children also tend to put their hands or other objects into their mouths. This is why the most common source of lead exposure in young children is lead dust that they swallow after placing their lead-contaminated hands or other objects in their mouths. The Mayo Clinic reports symptoms are developmental delay, learning difficulties, irritability, loss of appetite, weight loss, sluggishness and fatigue, abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation, hearing loss, seizures, eating things, such as paint chips, that aren't food (pica).

In January of 2020, the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University published "Is Lead Exposure a Form of Housing Inequality?". The report was written by Alix Winter and Robert Sampson. The report states, the continued presence of lead in homes is a result of a weak regulatory environment in combination with residential segregation, concentrated poverty, discrimination in housing markets, and neighborhood disinvestment. Indeed, regulators and inspectors are charged with developing and enforcing safe building codes, and, for rental properties, landlords are tasked with meeting these standards of environmental safety, including lead abatement. If these safeguards fail, tenants have a limited array of options for removing lead from their homes. And they are more likely to fail in neighborhoods of concentrated disadvantage, where low-income families often lack the power and resources to remove lead from their homes, or to move away when they cannot.

The report goes on to state, as a result of these social and political processes, researchers have consistently documented wide racial and class inequalities in exposure to lead. Our own research focused on the city of Chicago. Drawing on over one million blood tests administered to children from 1995 to 2013, matched to over 2,300 geographic block groups, we found that predominantly black neighborhoods consistently exhibit the highest prevalence rates of elevated blood lead levels, while predominantly white neighborhoods consistently exhibit the lowest prevalence rates. The prevalence rates of predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods are in between. These disparities were especially large at the beginning of the period we studied, with rates in 1995 topping 90 percent of the child population in some black and Hispanic neighborhoods. Between 1995 and 2013, neighborhood prevalence rates of elevated blood lead levels fell substantially, and the racial disparities shrank considerably but did not disappear. Neighborhood socioeconomic composition accounts for part of the relationship between racial composition and prevalence rates of elevated blood lead levels but does not fully account for it. Another portion of the relationship is accounted for by neighborhoods’ physical housing environments, which we capture with two measures: the percentage of housing structures built before 1950, when paint included higher lead levels than are considered safe today, and the percentage of vacant housing units.

Maye Development is committed to ensuring our neighborhoods are lead-free. Get your home tested to learn if your landlord is responsible for your child's lead poisoning.

34 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page