• Get the Lead Out
  • March 1, 2018
  • Two recent developments illustrate that the dangers of lead paint need to remain on the radar, especially for employers, property owners, and real estate managers. First, on January 26, a jury in New York handed down a $57 million verdict against the New York City Housing Authority after it failed to perform lead paint inspections and then represented that the inspections had been completed. The Housing Authority’s failure resulted in high blood-lead levels in at least one small child, whose mother sued the Housing Authority. Following the verdict, the Housing Authority is now in settlement talks with the plaintiffs.

    Second, in late December 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must issue a proposed rule within 90 days to update lead-based paint and lead-dust hazard standards. Additionally, the court ruled the EPA must promulgate the final rule within one year after the announcement of the proposed update. In 2009, several environmental groups sued the EPA, seeking to force it to set lead-dust hazard levels at what they contended was a more appropriate level — 10 micrograms per square foot for floors and 100 micrograms per square foot for window sills. The groups also sought a limit for lead-based paint of 0.06 percent lead by weight.

    The EPA agreed that new standards were needed in October 2009. Since then, the EPA ordered some studies and researched feasibility of lowering the standards. That work was completed in October 2015. But the agency has done nothing since then. Now, the Ninth Circuit has given the EPA just 90 days to propose new regulations.

    Thus, not only do lead contamination cases still carry the potential for heavy verdicts, but the standards relating to lead exposure are about to become more stringent. Though it is unclear what the EPA’s new standards will be, the Center for Disease Control has acknowledged there is no safe blood lead level, and the American Academy of Pediatrics has stated the EPA’s current standards are obsolete. As a result, employers, property owners, and real estate managers should be on the lookout for stricter enforcement of tighter standards.