R.I. Auditor Urges Implementation of Lead Hazard Mitigation Act

May 16, 2005

Rhode Island state agencies have been successful in outreach and financial assistance efforts regarding lead hazard reduction programs, but more can be done to make these programs more effective and to correct any unreasonable hardships prior to implementation of the statute.

These conclusions are included in a report released by the Joint Committee on Legislative Services. The report results from a special review conducted by the Office of the Auditor General, which focused on the Lead Poisoning Prevention Act, which has been in effect since 1992, and the statute entitled Lead Hazard Mitigation, which is scheduled to be implemented July 1, 2005.

The report includes among its recommendations that the state act quickly to implement the Lead Hazard Mitigation Act so that insurers can issue accurate renewal policies to insured property owners.

The Lead Hazard Mitigation Act focuses on rental housing. It establishes lead hazard mitigation standards that are easier to comply with than the existing lead safe standards.

The state estimates that approximately 300,000 housing units in Rhode Island were built before 1978, when lead paint was banned. About 30,000 units are considered high risk and in urgent need of lead hazard reduction.

The report calls for additional funding for public service announcements, providing evidence of screening for lead poisoning to owners of rental property, implementing procedures to ensure that inspections of child care facilities are conducted at least annually, establishing a new category for those high-risk properties in the process of being remediated, and providing funding to allow for the hiring of additional personnel.

The report suggests that online courses be made available for the lead hazard awareness seminars. In addition, it recommends that the requirement for annual reinspections for lead-safe rental properties be revised.

A workgroup formed by representatives of the Department of Health, the Governor’s Office, and the Housing Resources Commission has developed a series of public service announcements that encompass four separate time periods between May 2004 and June 2005. The workgroup also produced four fact sheets and one booklet explaining the Lead Hazard Mitigation Act in English and Spanish. The Housing Resources Commission developed a three-hour awareness course and also certified the training instructors and facilities through which the seminars are provided. DOH has licensed over 200 lead inspectors/technicians.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires each state to develop a strategic plan to eliminate lead poisoning in children by 2010. In Rhode Island, the elimination goal is to decrease the proportion of incidences of lead poisoning to less than 5 percent in all communities in the state without decreasing the availability of lead safe, affordable housing.

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