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Lead Poisoning Threatens Area Low-Income and African American Children

Press Release: 08.12.14

Lead Poisoning Threatens Area Low-Income and African American Children
Prevention Ordinance Slated for City Counsel

Together, Toledoans United for Social Action (TUSA) and Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. (ABLE) have been working on a Lead Poisoning Prevention Ordinance for the City of Toledo.

"Lead poisoning is a serious problem in the City of Toledo and the problem is clearly concentrated in the low-income and African American communities, where most, if not all of the housing stock was built prior to 1950," says Marcia Dinkins, TUSA executive director and lead organizer.

"US Census Data from 2010 shows that more than 80,000 African American residents live in the zip codes considered high risk – this means that 96 percent of Lucas County's African American population is at risk for lead poisoning," Dinkins adds.

Research by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows that lead poisoning can cause permanent damage to the brain and many other organs and cause reduced intelligence and behavioral problems. These problems can start in vitro if a woman is exposed to lead paint or dust while pregnant, and exposure can also result in fetal abnormalities.

These statistics and others can be found in a report on the Impact of Lead Poisoning on Minority and Low Income Communities in Toledo published by ABLE. The report includes specific at-risk zip code maps and other data that shows minorities and low-income residents are at much greater risk for lead poisoning than other demographics.

According to ABLE Attorney Robert Cole, "The report notes that the majority of the land contained within the boundaries of the city of Toledo is considered high risk areas for lead poisoning. The homes in these high risk zip codes are older and possess a high risk for the presence of lead paint. The conclusions that can be drawn from the data regarding which children continue to be exposed to lead hazards, who is lead poisoned and where they live, is clear."

A Lead Ordinance would require that every owner of residential rental property constructed prior to 1978 must have the property inspected for lead hazards and must maintain the property so that it remains free from lead. If an inspection of the residential rental property shows the existence of lead, the owner must have the lead hazard corrected, before the property can be rented.

The Ordinance would also require that every owner of residential rental property constructed prior to 1978 within the City of Toledo, obtain a Certificate of Registration of Lead Safe Residential Rental Property from the Toledo Lucas County Health Department before letting or otherwise permitting the occupancy of such residential rental property.

"The City of Toledo has one of the highest rates of childhood lead poisoning in Ohio, ranking second highest to Cleveland for the percentage of children with confirmed elevated blood lead levels in 2012," adds Cole. "The dangers posed by lead poisoning for children fall disproportionately on Toledo low-income and African American populations. The enactment of the proposed Lead Ordinance is a matter of environmental and racial justice.

"TUSA and ABLE will be spearheading a Lead Poisoning Prevention Summit sometime in September. "Our goal is to have the Ordinance introduced by Toledo City Council in September and passed by year's end," says Cole. "Enforcement of the ordinance would start quickly in the most affected neighborhoods, taking full effect within three years."

Founded in 1992, TUSA works to enable people of faith to work powerfully and effectively together to redress injustices in our community. TUSA members work together to build relationships, listen to common concerns, research community problems, and then take action to see that systems in the community are held accountable to principles of justice and fairness.

ABLE is a non-profit law firm that provides free legal assistance in civil matter to low-income individuals and groups in a 32-county area of northwest and west central Ohio. ABLE provides civil legal services in partnership with Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Inc. (LAWO).