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Does your rental unit contain lead paint?

The ongoing lead-tainted water crisis in Flint, MI has raised many troubling questions and resulted in residents throughout the U.S. to also question their own safety when it comes to exposure to lead-laden materials. When it comes to lead exposure and poisoning in New York City, older buildings that contain lead-based paint pose a significant hazard to residents.

Exposure to lead has been linked to numerous health problems and reductions in cognitive functioning. Children, especially those under the age of six, are especially vulnerable to the ill-effects of lead exposure and poisoning. Symptoms that may indicate that a child is suffering from lead poisoning include fatigue, weight loss, learning problems, developmental delays and hearing loss.

In adults, exposure to lead may cause an individual to experience headaches, memory loss, mood disorders, muscle pain, decline in mental functioning and miscarriage or reduced sperm count. Damage that occurs due to lead exposure is permanent and can result in serious health problems and diminished cognitive functioning and abilities.

In New York City, a 2004 law requires that landlords take steps to test for lead paint and to fix any identified lead paint hazards. The law pertains to buildings that were constructed before 1960, or 1978 if the presence of lead paint has been confirmed. Additionally, apartments and rental units where a child under the age of six lives must be inspected for "lead pain hazards every year."

In cases where lead paint is detected, a landlord must use workers who are certified and trained in lead paint remediation techniques. Additionally, landlords must take steps to repair any lead paint issues prior to a new tenant moving into an apartment. A landlord must also retain and, upon request, be able to produce any and all records related to lead paint inspections, repairs and remediation efforts.

Tenants who have concerns about possible lead paint exposure are advised to take steps to report a landlord who fails to comply with laws related to lead paint testing and remediation. In some cases, it may also make sense to contact an attorney who handles landlord negligence matters.

Source: City of New York, "Local Law 1 of 2004: New York City Lead Poisoning Prevention Law Information for Tenants," Feb. 16, 2016

Mayo Clinic, "Lead poisoning," Feb. 16, 2016

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