RI attorney general taking action to protect kids from lead poisoning

Health

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — It’s National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, and Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha said he’s rolling out a plan to help keep children safe and hold violators accountable.

“When you look at a situation where 500 children every single year are being diagnosed with elevated lead levels, well, that’s a place where we should be spending some of our resources,” Neronha said Thursday.

According to the R.I. Department of Health, lead can enter a person’s body in several ways, including inhalation and ingestion of lead dust or chips from paint.

“Lead has such a tremendous negative effect on the intellectual and development of a child,” Neronha said, adding that you can’t put a price tag on a child’s safety.

Just last week, Neronha’s office filed legal actions against two landlords. Court documents show that in both cases, the Health Department found their properties had a presence of lead that was “in violation to the law,” and children who lived there tested positive for elevated levels of lead in their blood.

“Our children are the canaries in the coal mine when they’re being tested, as they are when they go to the pediatrician every year,” Neronha said. “When they’re young and these elevated levels go to the Department of Health, that’s how we’re finding out these properties have this lead problem.”

Data from HousingWorks RI shows 73% of the state’s housing supply was built prior to 1980, and according to the Health Department, lead was used to make paint until 1978. Neronha said landlords who own properties built in 1978 or before need to have certain certificates under state law.

“If it’s a rental property and the landlord doesn’t live there, then you’ve got to have one of these lead certificates (conformant certificates) meaning you’ve been tested and you don’t have a lead paint issue in your apartment,” Neronha explained.

In addition to the legal action being taken, Neronha’s office said they’re also raising awareness about the dangers of lead poisoning and offering guidance to cities and towns on enforcing lead laws.

“The penalties that we recover from these landlords is going to go right back into lead enforcement efforts,” Neronha added.

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