Understanding Lead in Cleveland

Understanding Lead in Cleveland

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has documented that Ohio has nearly triple the incidence of lead poisoning as the national average. https://ohiocapitaljournal.com/2021/09/28/ohio-kids-show-elevated-lead-blood-levels-at-more-than-twice-the-national-rate-study-finds/

At the same time, data from the Ohio Department of Health shows that the percentage of Cleveland children being tested for lead poisoning has decreased every year since 2016. See the graph at https://www.clashcle.org/home

CDC tells us that there is no safe level of lead poisoning. Childhood Lead poisoning never goes away. In children lead exposure can cause neurological and developmental damage to the brain and nervous system. In school age children these deficiencies are manifest as slow learning and hyperactivity. In adolescence, these deficiencies are linked to hostile encounters with the criminal justice system. In adults, childhood exposure to lead contributes to diabetes, kidney, liver and heart diseases. tinyurl.com/dcz7793n

Who in the City of Cleveland is responsible for preventing or remediating lead hazards?

Poisoned babies is the focus of the Cleveland Department of Public Health. CDPH has the duty to follow up with the families where a child has been diagnosed with an elevated blood lead level. CDPH is responsible to oversee remediation (removal) the lead hazards that caused the child’s condition by conducting an inspection by a licensed lead professional and issuing a Lead Hazard Control Order.

Poisoned houses are the duty of the Cleveland Department of Building and Housing. Under the Lead Safe Certificate program, CDB&H which manages the the Lead Safe Certificate program that requires owners of rental housing built before 1978 to certify that their properties are lead safe before children are poisoned. Read more here.

The Cleveland Law Department is responsible to bring criminal charges for failure to comply with CDPH or CDB&H laws. The Law Department has not brought criminal or civil actions to enforce violations of the Codified Ordinances in Section 240 and Section 365.

Three other City programs will need to address lead safety in the coming years.

  • Cleveland Municipal School District: old buildings, old water lines and fixtures. A voluntary effort privately funded effort in 2017-2019 showed promise, but was discontinued.

  • Cleveland Water Department: Lead water lines may be addressed by President Biden's American Jobs Program if it passes Congress.

  • Cleveland Department of Building and Housing needs to address fraud in the various demolition programs. Demolition contractors often win contracts and then hire untrained subcontractors who spread lead dust around neighborhood where demolition is taking place.

Here's some basic facts about lead in Cleveland today.

1. Childhood lead testing in Cleveland has been on the decline since 2016

2. Building and Housing report slow implementation of the new Lead Safe Certificate Program https://www.news5cleveland.com/news/local-news/cleveland-metro/enforcement-is-near-for-many-landlords-as-part-of-clevelands-lead-poisoning-prevention-law

3. Testing children entering school lead testing. "The lead-testing program is in the third and final year of a $300,000 grant from the Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Foundation. Partners in Health is seeking money from various sources to extend the program. Testing was held at a limited number of schools during the first two years." https://www.clevelandmetroschools.org/site/Default.aspx?PageType=3&DomainID=3062&PageID=9145&ViewID=6446ee88-d30c-497e-9316-3f8874b3e108&FlexDataID=24322.

4. Lead in school buildings https://www.cleveland.com/healthfit/2016/11/cleveland_schools_find_dangerous_lead_levels_in_water_from_60_buildings_will_replace_580_outlets.html. There have been no further reports since 2016.

5. Poisoned houses in Cleveland. Visit: http://publicapps.odh.ohio.gov/EDW/DataBrowser/Browse/LeadHazardousProperties and use query building to get the addresses of properties with Lead Hazard Control Orders. To the best of our knowledge none has ever been taken to court. CLASH is in the midst of a windshield survey of these properties to determine their current use.