Lead Paint Danger
‘Incremental’ progress: Maine’s effort to address lead poisoning was gaining momentum before COVID-19
Testing and inspections have rebounded since the start of the pandemic, but the brain-damaging disease continues to affect hundreds of Maine children a year.
A bill reinforcing contractor requirements for work on buildings containing lead is dead after the Maine House and Senate failed to come to agreement.
Seeking to reduce the instances of Mainers getting lead poisoning due to careless renovations, a lawmaker introduced a proposal March 7 to require EPA training and certification in lead-safe removal methods for contractors working on older buildings. Sen. Nathan Libby, a Democrat from Lewiston — which has the most severe lead paint problem in the state — introduced a bill to require EPA training and certification in lead-safe removal methods for at least one person on contracting crews that perform maintenance or renovation work on buildings built before 1978, when lead paint was still legal to use.
Starting next month, the federal Environmental Protection Agency is going after contractors in the Lewiston-Auburn area who are failing to follow the law that requires them to remove lead paint safely.
Improper removal of lead paint during renovation is one of the ways lead can poison adults and children. Between 2009 and 2014, there were 467 Maine children identified as lead poisoned and 97 of those children were from the Lewiston-Auburn area, where the lead paint problem is the most severe in the state.
While the state’s public health efforts to fight childhood lead poisoning have been more successful in Bangor, Portland, Saco, Biddeford and Sanford, where the rates of lead poisoning have gone down in the past 20 years, the rates of childhood lead poisoning in Lewiston and Auburn remain stubbornly high.
Part three of four: The 2010 law, the “Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule,” requires that contractors must be trained in and follow lead-safe practices that prevent the spread of lead particles during home renovations. But a Maine Center for Public Reporting investigation has found that the law is widely unenforced, a fact even the federal agency that administers the law admits.
Part two of four: From 2003 through 2013, 1,512 Maine children, from newborns to 5 year olds, were diagnosed with lead poisoning. Starting this year, the numbers of lead-poisoned children will rise by hundreds more cases annually, as the state lowers the blood lead level that triggers a diagnosis.
What’s being done to solve the problem?
Part one of four: Childhood lead poisoning may be off the front pages, replaced by trendier hazards such as the chemicals in flame retardant clothing, but the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting has found it is still the No. 1 toxic health hazard for children. The problem is acute and persistent in parts of Maine, especially among poor and immigrant families.