If your apartment or home was built before 1978, it likely contains lead paint. Lead may also be present in the soil around your home.
Springfield has Highest Risk
In 2016 the Massachusetts Department of Public Health ranked Springfield as the highest risk community for childhood lead poisoning in the state based off of data from the past 5 calendar years.
Mass Lead Regulations to Change in December 2017
In September 2017, the Massachusetts Public Health Council approved amendments to the Commonwealth’s lead regulations lowering blood lead levels which would indicate a dangerous amount of lead or poisoning and making it easier for homeowners to delead their property.
These new regulations will make it easier to identify blood lead levels early before children are seriously harmed. In addition, the changes in deleading regulations are designed to help and encourage more homeowners to address lead paint which is in 84% of the homes in Springfield.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has released the following fact sheets:
- Homeowners, contractors and individuals that do lead abatement and lead enforcement work – Lead Fact Sheet for Property Owners and Contractors
- Pediatric healthcare providers responsible for blood level testing and reporting – Lead Fact Sheet for Health Care Providers
How Lead Becomes a Hazard
In 1978 Federal and State regulations banned the sale of lead-based household paints, but if your home was built before this time, it is very likely that it contains lead paint. Lead paint can break down over time due to age, poor maintenance, or household repairs. Chipping, peeling flaking or deteriorated lead-based paint creates lead dust, which when ingested or inhaled can cause serious health consequences. Even if lead-based paint is hidden beneath layers of lead-free paint, it can still deteriorate, creating a home health hazard. Additionally, deteriorated lead-paint can mix with soil and get tracked into the home.
If Child Under 6, Home Must be Lead Safe
If a child under six resides in a home that was built before 1978, Massachusetts law requires the removal or covering of lead paint hazards, including lead paint on all surfaces that are mouthable, moveable, or deteriorated. This work, known as lead abatement, can only be performed by a state licensed deleader. Property owners are responsible for complying with this law. It is illegal for a landlord to refuse to rent or seek to evict a family with children under age six because of lead paint. For information about state and federal lead paint regulations, contact the Massachusetts Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.
Notification of Lead Before Leasing or Buying Property
Before you sign a lease, your landlord must provide specific information about lead paint, including a copy of any lead inspection report, risk assessment report, Letter of Compliance, or Letter of Interim Control. These laws also apply to people selling their property. For more information, including copies of the required notification and certification forms, visit the MA Department of Health and Human Services website.
Children are at Greatest Risk
According to the CDC, there is no safe blood lead level. Children under the age of 6 years old are at the greatest risk because they are growing so rapidly. Also, young children tend to put their hands or other objects in their mouth, and these objects may be contaminated with lead dust. Children may also become lead poisoned by playing in lead-contaminated soil. Per the CDC, lead poisoning disproportionately affects children in poverty as well as certain racial or ethnic groups. Living in older housing is another risk factor.
Lead Exposure Has No Immediate Symptoms
Children who are lead poisoned may show no symptoms, and for this reason, it frequently goes unrecognized. Lead exposure can affect nearly every system in the body. It can harm your child’s brain, causing lifelong learning and behavior problems.The symptoms of lead poisoning are not easy to detect, but its effects are long-lasting. Even a minuscule amount can cause serious damage. According to the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative, a lead dust equivalent of only three granules of sugar can poison a child.
The EPA Reports the Following Health Impacts:
Even low levels of lead in the blood of children can result in:
- Behavior and learning problems
- Lower IQ and Hyperactivity
- Slowed growth
- Hearing Problems
In rare cases, ingestion of lead can cause seizures, coma and even death. The Green and Healthy Homes Initiative reports that lead poisoned children are 7 times more likely to drop out of school and 6 times more likely to become involved in the juvenile justice system. Lead poisoning can lead numerous learning disabilities including violent and aggressive behavior; speech delays; Attention Deficit Disorder; hyperactivity; diminished IQ; hearing and memory problems; and reduced motor control and balance.
Lead can accumulate in our bodies over time, where it is stored in bones along with calcium. During pregnancy, lead is released from bones as maternal calcium and is used to help form the bones of the fetus. This is particularly true if a woman does not have enough dietary calcium. Lead can also cross the placental barrier exposing the fetus the lead. This can result in serious effects to the mother and her developing fetus, including:
- Reduced growth of the fetus
- Premature birth
Lead can also be transmitted through breast milk.
Lead is also harmful to other adults. Adults exposed to lead can suffer from:
- Cardiovascular effects, including increased blood pressure and incidence of hypertension
- Decreased kidney function
- Reproductive problems (in both men and women)
According to the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative, other effects on adults include: depression and complications related to osteoporosis.
REMEMBER: SANDING OR SCRAPING LEAD PAINT CAN MAKE DANGEROUS DUST AND SHOULD ONLY BE PERFORMED BY A TRAINED PROFESSIONAL.
Test your Child’s Blood Lead Level
Every child in Massachusetts must be tested for lead. The first test must be done between the ages of 9 and 12 months. Children must be tested again at ages 2 and 3. If you live in a high risk neighborhood, your child must also be tested at age 4. Every child must have a lead test before they begin Kindergarten.
Where to Get your Child Tested
If you child has not been tested for lead, ask your child’s Primary Care Provider. You can also contact a local health clinic. Depending on the levels of lead found in your child’s blood, your doctor may give your child iron or medicines to remove lead from the blood (“chelation”). Your doctor may also request dietary changes, including increasing the intake of foods high in iron and calcium. For information on what the blood lead levels mean and what follow-up is required, visit the Massachusetts’ Department of Health and Human Service Website.
Steps to Minimize Lead Exposure
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development suggests the followings steps to minimize exposure to lead:
- Wipe down flat surfaces, like window sills, with a damp paper towel and throw away the paper towel;
- Mop smooth floors (using a damp mop) weekly to control dust;
- Take off shoes when entering the house;
- Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter or a “higher efficiency” collection bag;
- Pick up loose paint chips carefully with a paper towel and discard in the trash, then wipe the surface clean with a wet paper towel;
- Take precautions to avoid creating lead dust when remodeling, renovating or maintaining your home;
- Test for lead hazards by a lead professional (Have the soil tested too);
- Frequently wash your child’s hands and toys to reduce contact with dust;
- Use cold tap water for drinking and cooking;
- Avoid using home remedies (such as arzacon, greta, pay-loo-ah, or litargirio) and cosmetics (such as kohl or alkohl) that contain lead;
- Certain candies, such as tamarindo candy jam products from Mexico, may contain high levels of lead in the wrapper or stick. Be cautious when providing imported candies to children;
- Some tableware, particularly folk terra cotta plates and bowls from Latin America, may contain high levels of lead that can leach into food.
PLEASE NOTE: Hardware Store Lead Tests are not a reliable determination of lead. These have no legal basis in MA. Lead testing should be conducted by a MA Certified Lead Inspector.
Use Lead-Safe Work Practices When Making Repairs.
Common Repairs Create Lead Dust
Common renovation, repair, and painting activities that disturb lead-based paint (like sanding, cutting, replacing windows, and more) can create hazardous lead dust and chips which can be harmful to adults and children. Home repairs that create even a small amount of lead dust are enough to poison your child and put your family at risk. For more information, read EPA’s guide that describes why you should hire a lead-safe renovator.
Federal Law Requires Lead-Safe Practices
If you are having home renovations, repairs, or painting, hire a Lead-Safe Certified contractor who follows lead safe work practices! Federal Law requires that any work in your home that disturbs more than six square feet of an interior surface in which lead may be present, or twenty square feet of an exterior surface in which it may be present, must be done in accordance with lead-safe practices and supervised by someone trained in these practices. This applies to homes built before 1978 that have not otherwise been tested and shown to be lead free, regardless of whether a child under the age of six lives in the household. To comply with this law, contractors must provide you with a copy of the Renovate Right brochure before before the work begins. Also, they must inspect and test the property before work commences and conduct a post-intervention inspection. This law applies to contractors as well as work your landlord may perform.
If you Don’t Hire a Contractor
While the RRP Rule Doesn’t apply to homeowners doing work in their own home, do-it-yourself projects can still create hazardous lead dust. Visit the EPA’s website to learn how to protect your family and prevent lead dust from spreading around your home.
Get the Lead Out- Financing for Lead Abatement
Through a partnership with Departments of Public Health and Housing and Community Development, MassHousing offers an affordable way to remove hazardous lead paint from your 1-4 unit home. The program is administered by local housing agencies. To apply for a loan in Springfield, contact: Way Finders, City of Springfield’s Office of Housing, or Springfield Neighborhood Housing Services. This low-cost financing is available to both income-eligible owner-occupants and investor-owners with income-eligible tenants, however, the terms vary:
Owner Occupants with Lead Poisoned Child
Income-eligible owner-occupants under court order to delead or with a child who is under case management with CLPPP, may be eligible to receive a 0% deferred interest loan that is due only upon sale, transfer, or refinancing.
Owner Occupants without Court Order or CLPPP Case Management
Income-Eligible owner-occupants who wish to delead for preventative reasons may qualify for an amortizing loan with a 2% interest rate. The terms range from 5-15 years depending on the loan amount and borrower qualifications.
Investor-Owners who rent to income-eligible tenants may qualify for a 5% amortizing loan. Loan terms vary from 5 to 15 years depending on the loan amount and borrower qualifications.
For more information, including income requirements, visit the MassHousing Get the Lead Out Loan Program website or contact one of the abovementioned local administrating agencies.
Lead Paint Removal Tax Credit
Property owners who receive a Letter of Full Compliance are eligible for a MA State Tax Credit equal to the cost of deleading expenses, or $1,500, whichever is less. Owners who receive a Letter of Interim Control are eligible for a Tax Credit of up to $500. Only “residential premises” qualify. You can claim the Tax Credit in the taxable year in which compliance is certified or the year in which payment for deleading occurs, whichever is later. Taxpayers must attach a copy of the Letter of Interim Control and/or Letter of Full Compliance to schedule LP of the MA State Tax Forms. Contact the Massachusetts Department of Revenue at 617-887-MDOR or 800-392-6089 to obtain a copy of Schedule LP and additional information regarding the Lead Paint Tax credit.