Toys with lead paint clearly pose a health hazard, but by far the biggest environmental health hazard to children is lead paint and dust in older homes. This is, and has been, the primary source of child lead poisoning for the last century. In an article published today in the LA Times, this issue was specifically discussed by medical professionals most familiar with this issue.
“By far and away historically, the major concern about sources for lead has been your home,” said Dr. Helen Binns, a professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s medical school. Other health professionals cited in the article agree that toys with lead should be a concern; it is clear that the biggest lead paint threat still comes from deteriorated and flaking paint in older homes.
The hazards of lead paint poisoning have been known throughout the world since the early 1900’s. However, it was not until 1978 that the use of lead paint became illegal in the United States after it was banned by the EPA. Most cases of child lead poisoning result from the ingestion and inhalation of lead based paint and particles. However, other sources of lead, such as vinyl mini-blinds and toys may also be a source of lead hazards.
The Centers for Disease Control defines child lead poisoning as an elevated blood lead level greater than 9 micrograms per deciliter. Lead poisoning in children is typically detected through routine blood tests at annual exams. Many children have no symptoms at the time that they are lead poisoned, other than common child complaints like stomach pain or loss of appetite. Problems with behavior, learning, and development typically surface as the child progresses through elementary school.
Child lead poisoning injuries include:
-Loss of IQ Points
-Loss of earning capacity
-Hyperactivity and attention disorder (ADHD)
-Delinquent and criminal behavior
Because of the injuries caused by lead poisoning, many children will be unable to achieve their full intellectual potential and earning potential. Such children may need special education services for many years. For these reasons, the damages sustained by a lead poisoned child are significant. Many communities have excellent support groups for parents and family members of children diagnosed with the disease.
Landlords typically deny any knowledge of lead hazards in the home, despite local and federal regulations that require them to give notice of potential hazards to the tenant. Many landlords also refuse to abate or cover the hazards and demand that the tenants undertake these actions, which is clearly contrary to Michigan law.
After a child is diagnosed with an elevated blood lead level, the diagnosing doctor or clinic sends a notice to the health department to perform an inspection to determine the source of the child’s lead poisoning. Both the Michigan Department of Community Health and the Ohio Department of Health oversee county health departments to implement state procedures for inspections of properties. Many larger cities, like the City of Detroit, have their own lead poisoning prevention programs. It is often through these lead risk assessments that the paint hazards are identified in the landlord’s rental property.
Through document requests and depositions, our attorneys have been able to establish clear liability against the landlords. Many landlords are also held liable for their failure to provide their tenants with the required lead disclosure forms and pamphlets on child lead poisoning. The insurance companies for the landlords have paid significant settlements because of our efforts.
The statute of limitations for Michigan child injury cases varies from case to case. In Michigan, a lawsuit must be filed by the child’s 19th birthday before the case is lost. This allows the child to make his own decisions after becoming a legal adult to file a lawsuit. If the case involves injuries to a younger child, it is usually not a good idea to wait that long to file a lawsuit due to the difficulty of finding witnesses and other evidence that is necessary to prove and win your case. It is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible even if you are only considering filing a lawsuit so that the claims are not later destroyed due to a missed deadline.