IN THIS ISSUE:
- Cleveland Ordinance Establishes New Lead Safety Rules and Incentives for Property Owners
- Jacobs Cleared of Charges, Shuffled Aside
- FDIC Proposal Would Undercut Investments in Low-Income Housing
- Proposed Baltimore Ordinance Would Limit Landlord Liability on Lead Poisoning
- Integrated Pest Management Beats Spraying Against Roaches
- New Asthma Threat Detected in Homes
- New EPA Webpage on Remodeling and Indoor Environmental Quality
- New York City’s Chinese Community Backs Illegal Pesticide Reduction Effort
- NPR Series on Indoor Air and Health
- Research Shows Smoking Creates Harmful Particulate Levels Indoors
- Army Corps Adds Anti-Lead Chemical to DC Water Supply
- New Orleans to Create a Lead Safe House
- EHP Publishes Results of National Center Symposium
- Upcoming Conferences and Trainings
- Correction to Alliance Alert Article: “Federal Lead Hazard Disclosure Law Largely Unenforced in Alabama”
The Cleveland City Council passed a new lead-based paint ordinance on August 11 that, among other provisions, makes lead paint hazards in residences, schools, and day care facilities a “nuisance” subject to city code enforcement; establishes city lead hazard disclosure requirements and penalties; creates a property certificate program as an incentive for property owners to eliminate lead hazards; and allows the city to regulate exterior paint removal through their permitting process for most pre-1978 properties.
The law makes lead paint hazards (as defined in state regulations) in residences, schools, and day care facilities a “nuisance” under city code, which empowers the city environment commissioner to require the property owner to immediately control the hazards. If the owner fails to act, the commissioner can send a contractor to abate the hazard and assess the costs to the owner by placing a lien on the property.
The ordinance also incorporates the federal lead hazard disclosure law into city code. It gives individuals harmed by the property owner the ability to recover triple damages, and it authorizes nonprofit groups to pursue damages on behalf of individuals. The ordinance also gives the Cleveland Department of Public Health authority to pursue criminal penalties (up to $5,000 per violation) against property owners who fail to distribute the EPA lead hazard information pamphlet, disclose the known presence and location of any lead-based paint or hazard, or fulfill other duties under the federal lead hazard disclosure law.
In addition, the ordinance includes a voluntary certificate incentive program for property owners. With proof of a lead inspection, owners of property built before 1978 can obtain a Lead-Free Certificate, granting the owner the legal presumption that the property is free from lead-based paint and lead hazards. For property constructed before 1950 that meets the Essential Maintenance Practices requirements defined in state law, owners can obtain a Lead-Safe Maintenance Certificate which states that the property does not contain a lead hazard but is not certified as lead-free. To obtain either certificate, property owners must meet stringent inspection requirements, and they must abide by all disclosure provisions in order to retain their certificates. Lead-Free Certificates are valid unless they are revoked by the city; Lead-Safe Maintenance Certificates must be renewed annually. Both types of certificates transfer with property ownership, but the new owner must notify the city, pay a small fee, and comply with all the conditions for maintaining the certificate.
The law also requires city permits for residential interior or exterior lead hazard abatement projects and for exterior lead paint removal in pre-1978 housing, except for owner-occupied properties under certain conditions, housing exclusively for seniors or persons with disabilities, and zero-bedroom units. Both the city environment department and the city code enforcement agency are given authority to issue stop work orders if a permit has not been obtained or if work is not being done in compliance with state lead safety standards and methods. For the full text of the Cleveland ordinance, see www.ehw.org/Lead/documents/finalleadordinance.pdf.
HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson has formally notified Dave Jacobs, Director of the Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control (OHHLHC), that Jacobs is not being removed from federal service. However, Secretary Jackson has reassigned Jacobs to a special assistant post in the Office of Community Planning and Development. Under federal personnel rules, senior executives have no grounds to appeal such reassignments.
In April, Secretary Jackson notified Jacobs of his intent to fire him for cause. Jacobs refuted each of the charges in a point-by-point rebuttal. More than 60 individuals spanning a broad spectrum—state and local agency staff, grantees, parents, community leaders, and experts in the field—wrote personal letters to Secretary Jackson to express their confidence in Jacobs’ ability to balance public health and affordable housing goals and their support for his continued leadership of the OHHLHC.
Jacobs is widely credited with many of the gains made at HUD and nationally during his nine-year tenure as Director of the OHHLHC. Secretary Jackson’s decision vindicates Jacobs but relegates the country’s leading expert on lead poisoning prevention and healthy homes to a staff assignment in another office.
The Alliance salutes Dave Jacobs’ unflagging commitment to protecting children from lead poisoning and other housing-related health hazards. The Alliance urges HUD and Congress to ensure that the OHHLHC has the leadership, staff, and resources to achieve the national goal of ending lead poisoning by 2010 and protecting children from other health hazards in their homes.
In 1977, Congress enacted the federal Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) to prevent discriminatory practices by lenders and promote private investment in low-income communities. CRA has helped advocates leverage billions of dollars in resources for affordable housing over the past two and a half decades. In some cases, CRA has been used to convince banks to create discounted financing programs specifically for lead paint and other health-related repairs. Now, federal bank regulators are proposing new rules to weaken CRA by relieving some mid-sized banks of their obligation to provide investments and services in low-income areas.
On August 20, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) proposed raising the asset threshold from $250 million to $1 billion in assets for “small banks.” This change would exempt approximately 2,000 FDIC-insured institutions from CRA’s more stringent exams. Today, banks with assets of more than $250 million must illustrate the distribution of their loans by geography and income and demonstrate that they provide both services and investments that benefit low- and moderate-income households and neighborhoods in their communities.
According to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, changing the “small bank” definition will allow the banks, with total assets of more than $754 billion and branches in more than 18,800 communities (96% of all FDIC-regulated banks), to receive a watered-down CRA exam. Because institutions with assets of $250 million to $1 billion comprise substantial market share in rural areas, such a change will also mean that many rural communities and states will not have access to any institutions required to offer services and investments that benefit low- and moderate-income communities.
Advocates are also concerned that other federal agencies that regulate other financial institutions will join the FDIC in significantly scaling back the CRA.
The FDIC is accepting public comments on their proposed rule until Sept. 20. [UPDATE: The public comment deadline has been extended to October 20.] Visit www.fdic.gov/regulations/laws/federal/propose.html and look for the 8/20/04 Community Reinvestment proposed rule. In the far right column, you can click on “Comments” to submit electronic comments. For more information, contact the National Low Income Housing Coalition at [email protected] or 202-662-1530.
A pending Baltimore ordinance, City Council Bill 04-1276, seeks to undo the effects of a November 2003 Maryland Court of Appeals decision. Brooks v. Levin held a landlord liable for a child’s lead poisoning even though the tenant did not notify the owner about the deteriorated paint in the home.
The court noted that Baltimore’s housing code prohibits chipping or peeling paint in residences and that landlords have a continuing duty to adequately maintain their properties in a way that controls paint deterioration. The record showed that the landlord violated the housing code and that the violation was linked to the child’s lead poisoning. According to the court, these elements were sufficient to support a case for negligence and that the tenants were not required to notify the landlord of the lead hazard. Lead poisoning prevention advocates in the state hailed the decision as a firm reminder that the Baltimore housing code has long put landlords on notice that they have a legal obligation to properly maintain their properties.
The proposed bill would limit landlords’ liability if tenants have not given notice of a particular health hazard. Advocates point out that landlords have an obligation to provide safe housing and to abide by the housing code, and that many health hazards are not apparent to tenants. The Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning and several council members oppose the bill. A similar measure failed in the Maryland General Assembly during the last legislative session.
For more information, contact Ruth Ann Norton of the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning at [email protected] or 410-534-6447, ext. 11.
A recent study by researchers at Virginia Tech found that controlling German cockroaches using integrated pest management (IPM) is more effective than traditional pesticide spraying and is safer for pest control workers and residents.
Researchers evaluated methods used in 100 units of a low-income housing development in eastern Virginia, all with cockroach infestation. Half the units received traditional spraying, and the other half received IPM treatments including HEPA filter vacuuming, baiting, and insect growth regulators. While IPM treatments cost more, researchers found that IPM was far more effective than the more toxic chemical treatments.
Controlling cockroach infestations is a critical component of any healthy homes strategy. Cockroach waste, skin, and body parts contain an antigen that triggers attacks in many asthmatic children and adults. Using traditional, high-toxicity pesticides to control roaches, however, can also trigger asthma in sensitive individuals. Many pesticides are also suspected carcinogens, can cause birth defects, and may cause permanent developmental disabilities.
The study, titled “Cost and Efficacy Comparison of Integrated Pest Management Strategies with Monthly Spray Insecticide Applications for German Cockroach Control in Public Housing,” was published in the April 2004 edition of the Journal of Economic Entomology.
A July study by a team of Swedish researchers found that two chemicals common in household dust pose significant risks for allergic and asthmatic reactions in children. The chemicals, known as phthalates (pronounced tha-lates), are common plasticizers found in a wide variety of consumer goods around the world.
The researchers focused on three phthalates: di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP), butyl benzyl phthalate (BBzP), and di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP). DnBP was not associated with allergies or asthma. BBzP is found in vinyl tile, carpeting, and artificial leather and was strongly associated with nasal allergies and eczema (a rash-like skin allergy). DEHP is heavily used as a plasticizer in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and was found to be an asthma trigger.
DEHP could constitute a significant public health concern, as childhood asthma rates have increased sharply around the world in recent years. DEHP is widely used, making up approximately one-half of the global market share of all phthalates. It is found in high concentrations in household dust, and children in industrialized countries are likely exposed to large doses of the chemical each day. The researchers state that inhalation is a likely exposure pathway for DEHP—the chemical is easily inhaled, especially by children whose natural play behaviors place them on the floor, where house dust accumulates.
While several studies have examined the concentration of phthalates in household dust, this research is the first to draw a strong link between the chemicals and asthma.
Since the publication of the book Our Stolen Future in 1996, phthalates have been the subject of growing controversy. The plastics industry claims the chemicals are safe. However, researchers are concerned about a variety of adverse impacts from phthalates. In addition to the asthma risk identified by the Swedish study, scientists also have linked phthalates to endocrine disruption, which negatively affects hormone levels and the reproductive systems of wildlife and humans.
The asthma study will be published in Environmental Health Perspectives and is available at http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/members/2004/7187/7187.html. For more in-depth information about phthalates, visit www.ourstolenfuture.org.
The EPA recently posted a new webpage, “Addressing Indoor Environmental Concerns when Remodeling.” The page provides tips on how to keep indoor environmental quality in mind when starting a remodeling project, including detailed information on radon, carbon monoxide, lead safety, and good remodeling work practices. The page also contains an interactive diagram of a house that allows users to click on the room they plan to remodel. The page returns pointers tailored to renovation projects for the room selected. To use this resource, visit www.epa.gov/iaq/homes/hip-front.html.
Throughout New York City and urban New Jersey, street dealers and shops sell illegal pesticides to homeowners and apartment dwellers, many of whom seek to eradicate cockroaches or rodents from their homes. Low-income and minority communities are often targets of these pesticide vendors. The poisons they sell are often far more toxic than legal pesticides, and several people have been killed using the chemicals.
Now, New York City’s Chinese community, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and New York City Councilman John Liu are working together to educate New York’s Chinese population about the dangers of illegal pesticides and more effective ways to combat pests. These leaders helped produce a Chinese language poster to be displayed in storefronts throughout the city, providing important information about pesticides and their use.
EPA has inspected more than 100 stores in New York City and urban New Jersey and found more than 90 different illegal pesticides for sale. Since 2000, the EPA has fined stores more than $1 million for selling these chemicals.
Vendors claim that illegal pesticides are safe, effective, and registered with the EPA. However, only pesticides with official EPA registration numbers are legal—and only for registered uses. People should be aware that even EPA registration does not guarantee that a pesticide is completely safe.
For more information on illegal pesticide sales, see www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/illegalproducts/index.htm. To learn more about the dangers of indoor pesticide use, visit www.beyondpesticides.org.
On August 16 and 17, National Public Radio (NPR) ran a two-part series on indoor air quality and health impacts during its Morning Edition program. The series focused on chemicals, allergens, and carbon monoxide in homes, all of which can have serious health consequences.
The first part of the series looked at what NPR’s Jon Hamilton called “sick walls.” These walls can harbor mold, an allergen and asthma trigger for many Americans. Composed of paint, primer, gypsum wallboard, a vapor barrier, insulation, and vinyl siding, walls can also emit irritants and toxic chemicals like formaldehyde and vinyl chloride, both of which can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs, and both can cause cancer. Vinyl chloride and other chemicals emitted from walls can also damage organs, including the liver.
The series’ second segment explored methods for building healthier homes. Some of the solutions presented were highly specialized, including foam insulation made from soybeans and floor coverings made from natural products. Others, however, can easily be integrated into any home, including the elimination of wall-to-wall carpeting (which can emit toxins and trap allergens), effectively venting water heater and furnace burners to prevent indoor emission of carbon monoxide, and installing air filters.
For more information on this two-part series, visit www.npr.org/features/feature.php?wfId=3851857&place=home03.
A study published in the September 2004 issue of Tobacco Control found that lighted cigarettes produce ten times as much dangerous particulate matter as a passenger vehicle operating on diesel fuel. In an experiment conducted in a private garage in a small mountain town in northern Italy where background levels of particulate pollution were very low, scientists ran a diesel-powered car in an enclosed space for 30 minutes. They compared the vehicle’s emissions with those from three filtered cigarettes burned sequentially in the same enclosed space for the same amount of time.
Not only did the burning cigarettes produce 10 times as much particulate matter as the car, the concentration of particulate matter in the enclosed space where the cigarettes burned was 15 times as high as levels measured outdoors. Particulate matter is known to cause lung cancer and is particularly hazardous in homes because it does not readily dissipate in the indoor environment.
Environmental tobacco smoke has also long been known to be an asthma trigger, and the new research may help explain why secondhand smoke is so dangerous to asthmatics. Eliminating tobacco smoke from the home is one highly recommended way for families to help prevent asthma attacks.
To read the full study, visit http://press.psprings.co.uk/tc/september/219_tc5975.pdf. For more information on how environmental tobacco smoke can harm people with asthma, visit the American Lung Association at www.lungusa.org.
As part of an ongoing effort to decrease lead levels in Washington, DC’s drinking water, the Army Corps of Engineers started adding phosphoric acid to the citywide water supply on August 23. The chemical is used in other jurisdictions across the United States to coat the inside of plumbing to prevent lead from leaching into drinking water from pipes and solder.
In January 2004, the Washington Post reported that the DC Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) had been detecting high lead levels in drinking water in thousands of District homes, starting in 2002, without notifying consumers of the risk. The coverage caused a storm of controversy. The EPA approved the addition of phosphoric acid and expects that the chemical will show positive results within one year. However, it may take longer before lead contamination drops below federal action levels that trigger a legal requirement to replace lead water service lines.
The City of New Orleans announced in August that it will renovate a blighted property to create the city’s first “Lead Safe House.” The property will provide temporary lead-safe shelter for families who are forced to leave their homes because of lead hazards. The families will live in the house while lead hazards in their own properties are corrected.
The project, financed by a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Conference of Mayors, could help families throughout the city. The house is to be finished by the end of 2004 and will accommodate each family for up to 30 days.
Environmental Health Perspectives has posted on its website an article from the National Center for Healthy Homes, “The Relationship Between Housing and Health: Children at Risk.” The article reports on a two-day conference that the Center convened in November 2002. The conference was unique in that it was solely focused on housing’s impacts on children’s health and ways to translate healthy homes research into practical solutions. The article also explains that feasible changes in policy and research goals hold much promise for overcoming current obstacles to providing healthy housing for all children across the United States. The article, which will appear in an upcoming print edition, is currently available online by visitinghttp://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/members/2004/7157/7157.pdf.
The New England Asthma Regional Council (ARC) will sponsor a series of healthy housing trainings for contractors, architects, community development corporation staff, and others in the New England region. The trainings will teach healthy homes concepts and practices to those involved in designing, building, financing, and maintaining affordable housing. Trainings will be offered Sept. 23 in Lebanon, NH; Oct. 12 in Providence, RI; and Oct. 13 in Boston. On Dec. 10, a special session will be offered for code inspectors in New Haven, CT. For more details, contact Stacey Roberts at [email protected]or 617-451-0049. ARC has also posted an important technical resource booklet on how to build and renovate affordable housing while minimizing asthma triggers such as mold, dust mites, and pests like cockroaches and rodents. To view the booklet, visit www.asthmaregionalcouncil.org/documents/READTHIS6.07.04.pdf.
The Children’s Environmental Health Institute will host the “2004 Biennial Scientific Symposium on Children’s Health as Impacted by Environmental Contaminants” on September 24 and 25 in Austin, Tex. The symposium will provide an opportunity for public health professionals, education policymakers, childcare facility administrators, and others to learn how to protect children from environmental health risks. Topics will include asthma, known and potential environmental links to developmental disabilities and autism, and the prevalence of chemicals in air, food, water, and the home. More information is available at www.cehi.org/symposium_2004.html or by writing Sarah Jones at [email protected].
The Housing Justice Network is holding its annual meeting in Washington, DC, on October 3 and 4. The meeting will include workshops and a plenary on environmental justice and environmental health issues, along with other topics of interest to legal aid housing attorneys and low-income housing advocates. For more information, E-mail Steven Fischbach of Rhode Island Legal Services at [email protected].
The Institute on Urban Health Research and the International Society for Urban Health are sponsoring the Third International Conference on Urban Health, to be held October 20-22 at Northeastern University in Boston. The conference will address issues including the effect on urban health from climate change, urban environmental health issues, areas of intense political conflict, and disparities in health status and health care. The conference will also explore how to build local and regional public health infrastructure through community-based partnerships and establishing a new urban health research framework. Further details and registration information are available at www.iuhr.neu.edu/conference.
The American Public Health Association is holding its Annual Meeting and Exposition November 6-10 in Washington, DC. The meeting will include over 900 scientific sessions, a variety of special sessions, a networking reception, and an awards ceremony. More information is available at www.apha.org/meetings or by calling Anna Keller at 202-777-2476.
Indiana is holding its Lead-Safe and Healthy Homes Conference in Indianapolis on November 9 and 10. The conference will include several plenary sessions, and Dr. Mary Jean Brown of CDC, Dennis Livingston, and Don Ryan of the Alliance are scheduled to speak. For more information, visit www.ikecoalition.org or call Improving Kids’ Environment at 317-442-3973.
The Western Regional Conference on Mold, Lead, Healthy Homes, and Children’s Environmental Health will be held in Berkeley, CA, from November 17-19. The conference will cover topics such as children’s environmental health; health education; lead hazard control and healthy homes practices, programs, and policies; and conducting mold prevention, assessment, and remediation work. More information is available at www.leadmoldconferences.com/04pdfs/2004WesternRegConf.pdfor by calling Kristin Joyner at 1-800-590-6522.
The last issue of the Alliance Alert (August 2004) reported on the controversy over the release of addresses of homes where lead poisonings have occurred in Birmingham, AL. The Alliance regrets that we did not contact the Jefferson County Department of Health for a response to statements cited in the article. The Department contends that it has and continues to release address data to CDC. The article incorrectly stated that lead poisoning is not a reportable disease under Alabama law.
The disclosure of address data is a complicated and sensitive issue in many jurisdictions, and a dispute still remains about this in Birmingham. For more background, the Alliance publication, “Overcoming Barriers to Data-Sharing Related to the HIPAA Privacy Rule,” a guide for state and local lead poisoning prevention programs, is now available online atwww.afhh.org/res/res_publications.htm#datashare.