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'No level of exposure to lead is safe': Metro Council files ordinance to address lead in rental properties

Councilwoman Cassie Chambers Armstrong said the ordinance is a step forward in making sure children in Louisville have access to lead-free housing.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A new Louisville ordinance, if passed, would require landlords to remove any lead-based hazards from their rental properties to protect children.

According to a press release from the Democratic Caucus, Councilwoman Cassie Chambers Armstrong (D-8) and Councilwoman Cindi Fowler (D-14) sponsored the legislation.

Chambers Armstrong said the ordinance is a step forward in making sure children in Louisville have access to lead-free housing.

“We also know what we need to do to solve this problem: ensure our kids are able to live in lead-free environments,” said Chambers Armstrong.

John Cullen had to deal with the problem first-hand. "We were on Highland Avenue, and like most people, we had our first child and it was the first time we heard anything about lead and lead poisoning," he said. 

John's son tested positive for lead poisoning and it pushed the new father to create a company to address the issue. 

His company, Lockup Lead is now used across the country and even by Metro Public Health to detect and address lead in the home.

You can purchase a detector spray for less than $10. When the liquid makes contact with lead, it turns bright red.

The American Academy of Pediatrics said lead is a neurotoxin that can cause permanent health issues for children ages six and younger. Exposure can impact cognitive development, impulse control, concentration and physical growth.

Dr. Sarah Moyer, the director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, said blood-lead poisoning can cause life-long damage to a child’s intelligence, learning ability and behavior.

“It disproportionately affects children in low-income families and families of color. The social costs of lead exposure can be up to billions of dollars in a child’s future earnings as well as public spending on healthcare, special education, juvenile justice, and other social services. No level of exposure to lead is safe, but it can be easily prevented,” said Moyer.

Louisville Metro Government data shows 9,823 children tested positive for higher blood-lead levels from 2005-2021 according to the release. However, decreased funding and lack of access to regular preventative care may affect those numbers and that number may be higher.

The proposed ordinance would also require owners of properties built before 1978 to register their properties in a new registry called the Lead-Safe Housing Registry. Owners must also complete a lead-hazard risk assessment with a state-certified inspector to identify any hazards.

If lead is found, the owner has to come up with a plan to address or manage the hazard; failure to do so could result in civil penalties with fines up to $500.

For details on how to safely deal with lead in your home, visit the EPA website.

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