Protecting Your Family From Lead
What laws protect you from lead-based paint hazards?
With the exception of one to four unit rental properties in the City of Toledo, it is legal to sell or lease a pre-1978 home in Ohio with potential lead hazards as long as the owner complies with the federal and Ohio disclosure laws.
- Federal law requires owners to disclose the possible known presence of existing lead paint. Owners must give a prospective buyer or tenant the pamphlet, Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home and provide information concerning the presence of lead paint or lead-based paint hazards. Homebuyers have 10 days to inspect for lead after entering into a purchase contract.
- Ohio law requires residential property owners to disclose the presence of lead on the Ohio Residential Property Disclosure Form. The law does not require rental property owners to allow a prospective tenant to inspect for lead hazards prior to signing a lease.
The City of Toledo adopted a Lead Ordinance in 2016 (Chapter 1760 “Registration of Lead Safe Rental Units) that requires rental properties of 4 units or less and in-home daycares (in rental housing) constructed prior to 1978 to
- Register with the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department and
- Obtain a Lead-Safe Certification according to a timetable based on the census tract in which the property is located (see Lead Ordinance 3 Year Implementation Plan)
To obtain a Lead-Safe Certification, rental property owners must pass a visual inspection for lead-based paint hazards, meaning the unit has no deteriorated paint and no bare soil around the drip line, and a lead dust wipe inspection. The Toledo Lucas County Health Department says it is not necessary or advisable for owners to evict tenants in order to prepare for the inspection.
The City of Toledo adopted amendments to the lead ordinance on April 18, 2017. The amendments gave owners additional time to obtain the Lead-Safe Certification, created a Hardship Extension Program and made other changes. Check with the Toledo Lucas County Health Department for any additional updates to the ordinance.
Toledo Lead Ordinance Resources:
- Brochure for Property Owners
- Brochure for Tenants
- City of Toledo Lead Ordinance Explained through a Flow Chart
- Text of City of Toledo Lead Ordinance
The City of Cleveland passed a law in 2004 that declares lead paint hazards a nuisance, requires lead hazard disclosure, creates voluntary Lead-Based Paint Free and Lead Maintenance Certificates, requires a permit for exterior paint removal and incorporates the state lead law and federal disclosure rule (see Chapter 240, Lead Hazards, Health Code, City of Cleveland Code of Ordinances). However, in section 240.04, Secondary Prevention, lead investigations and risk assessments are only authorized when a child under six years of age has lead poisoning.
Chapter 4527, Lead Based Coatings and Lead Bearing Substances in the Columbus Housing Code gives the City authority to conduct inspections on its own initiative or in response to complaints. Like Cleveland, Columbus doesn’t conduct routine inspections for lead hazards and becomes aware of such hazards only when a child is poisoned.
How can you find out if your home has lead paint hazards?
In the absence of laws protecting children from lead poisoning, parents and caregivers need to be proactive to prevent children from becoming lead poisoned. If you live in a pre-1978 home or rental unit that has original painted components and you have young children, are pregnant or provide home day care, it makes sense to find out if the paint contains lead. To find out if you have lead paint in your home, hire a state licensed lead inspector. To find out if any lead paint present poses a risk to your family, hire risk assessor (see section below on inspectors and risk assessors). You can also use commercially available test kits and test the paint and/or dust yourself.
Lead Paint Test Kits
Spot testing by using lead paint test kits purchased at your local hardware store will tell you if the outer layer of paint (or the layer underneath peeling paint) contains lead. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes two lead test kits: 3M LeadCheck Swabs and D-Lead paint test kit. Both kits can be used on wood, metal, plaster and drywall. D-Lead also offers a test for lead dust that is not recognized by the EPA for testing in connection with the EPA’s Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule. Some places in the home that frequently test positive for lead are windows, doorframes and porches. Lead paint was used in these areas because it was durable and withstood wear and tear. If the paint is in poor condition and the lead test kit shows the paint contains lead, you are faced with some difficult choices. Regardless of what direction you choose to go, it’s wise to ask your child’s pediatrician for a lead test. Your community health clinics and your local health department may also offer lead testing (see the Ohio Department of Health’s Lead Testing in Local Health Departments).
Lead Inspections and Risk Assessments
To more accurately determine the amount of lead paint and related lead hazards in your home, consider having a lead inspection. If the question is not whether you have lead paint, but whether the paint is a hazard and what to do about it, then you may want to consider a risk assessment. You can search for licensed inspectors and risk assessors in your area through the Ohio Department of Health (see Search Lead Data Base and Lists.) If your household doesn’t have the resources or if you have a landlord who isn’t willing to help, find out if your community provides funding for inspections and lead hazard control. See OHHN’s Directory of Lead, Home Repair and Healthy Housing Resources (link to directory) for more information.
If you have deteriorated lead paint in your home, should you move?
Older homes with likely lead paint hazards can be made reasonably lead safe. However, some work will be required on your part to protect your family:
- If you haven’t already done so, have your home inspected by a state licensed lead inspector. If the affected area is not extensive and the home repair/painting is minimal, one option is to hire an EPA Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) certified renovator to take care of it. RRP certified renovators have taken a one-day training in lead safe renovation techniques and passed an exam on the material. For example, if your windows have peeling lead paint and the windows are in need of replacement, find a window replacement firm with RRP certification. You can search for EPA RRP certified firms in your geographic area through the EPA’s RRP website.
- Find out if your local health or housing department offers assistance with lead hazard control or has a HUD rehabilitation program that can address lead hazards. Check OHHN’s Directory of Lead, Home Repair and Healthy Housing Resources to see if assistance is available in your county. In Ohio, the availability of lead assistance usually depends on whether the jurisdiction has been awarded a HUD lead hazard control grant.
- If the lead hazards are not extensive, another option is to conduct careful, comprehensive cleaning to remove lead dust and/or handle necessary renovations on your own. (Note that if a child is lead poisoned, the owner is required by state law to hire a licensed lead abatement contractor.) Get training in lead safe renovation and lead hazard control techniques prior to starting any renovations that involves lead paint. Otherwise, you may spread lead dust and paint chips throughout your home and put yourself and your family in danger. The state lead abatement contractor course would be your best option to protect your family. At a minimum, it makes sense to take the one-day EPA RRP training course. To locate training courses in Ohio, go to the Ohio Department of Health, Environmental Licensing Search.
- If none of these options are viable and a move is necessary, you may find the ideas listed below helpful in your search for lead safe housing.
Lead Safe Housing
The most reliable way to secure lead safe housing is to purchase or rent a home built after 1978. However, many homes built before 1978 are lead safe because they were built using little or no lead paint, the lead paint has been maintained, lead hazards have been remediated by the private owner (such as window and door replacement) and as the result of government programs or health department lead orders. Here are some ideas about how to locate lead safe housing in older neighborhoods and communities:
- Homes that have been substantially rehabilitated using HUD funding and passed a clearance test are considered lead-safe. All local and state governments that receive HUD funds are required to keep a roster of housing units made lead safe by their programs. The addresses of these units are generally not available on agency websites. If the addresses of HUD assisted properties are not listed on your community development or housing department’s website, you may need to call your local government to request the most recent list of addresses. Note that if lead paint was disturbed after the property passed clearance, lead hazards may be present. If you see deteriorated paint, you may want to walk away.
- If your area is covered by a HUD Lead Hazard Control grant, check to see if your city or county health or community development department publishes a list of lead safe units on their agency website. For example, the Ohio Department of Health posts the addresses units made lead safe through their HUD grants. Rental units made lead safe through the HUD Lead Hazard Control grant program must be offered at HUD Fair Market rents for three years after the lead work has been completed. In addition, owners must give priority to families with children under six years of age.
- Public housing units are generally considered to be lead safe but be sure to ask before you sign a lease.
- Rental properties accepting HUD housing choice vouchers are required to address all peeling paint prior to renting the property. These units are usually in better condition than other rental housing developments in the same neighborhood because of the careful inspection process.
- Older homes and apartments with intact lead paint and cleaned thoroughly on a regular basis are also an option. Note that lead dust invisible to the eye can be a hazard so consistent cleaning, washing children’s hands and toys, use of wipe off mats, etc. are all important. Lead could also be hiding in places other than paint, including ceramic tile, claw foot bathtubs and soil.
- You can ask your local health department for assistance. They will know what census tracts in your community have the greatest risk of having lead-based paint hazards as well as census tracts where children have rarely been poisoned.