You could say lead paint is back in the news, but it’s pretty much been front and center for decades. The country is still reeling from a century-old crisis, but laws and regulations, even with the best of intentions, coupled with the enormity of the issue, can hamper the actual work needing to be done. These are just a few of the cities with challenges for painters, city leadership, and a building’s occupants.
The city of Memphis, Tennessee, where lead poisoning is about twice the national average, recently received a $5M grant towards lead removal, which while substantial, puts a small dent in what could be as many as 200,000 affected homes. Furthermore, the city suffers from a severe shortage of certified contractors. Many painters avoid lead abatement projects due to the requirements and the potential fines for doing it the wrong way. With less than ten certified contractors in Memphis, part of the grant will be used for training contractors in proper procedure.
In the Bronx, New York, the city has recently begun testing nearly 200 community centers that support children programs from age six and under, the age where ingesting lead paint is particularly dangerous. If lead based paint is found in these centers, a sign will be placed on the facility to notify those who use it. In good news, so far most of the facilities tested have come up negative.
Syracuse, New York is looking to put a law on the books that make it a code violation not to replace lead paint on walls, doors and windows, and hopes to have it in effect by April. The city acknowledges it will take a lot of work and training to make sure that systems are in place to implement the program, and of course, paint contractors may be needed to get the work done. In some areas of Syracuse, up to 20% of children test positive for lead poisoning.
Fort Campbell, on the Tennessee-Kentucky border, is looking into the drastic step of tearing down its older homes that were painted with LPB, on the grounds that replacement is more cost-effective than abatement, and that those houses are often home to younger families with at-risk children. Over 70% of the houses are pre 1978, with many approaching 100 years old.
Finally, the city of new Haven, Connecticut continually racks up legal bills and judicial admonishments in a series of lawsuits that alleges they’re ignoring requirements regarding lead paint inspections and abatement for residences that house at-risk children. This litigation has been going on for years, costing the city a substantial sum in fines and legal fees.
For a painter willing to do the work and get the training, there is still a lot of opportunity to help make housing safer in the years to come.