Loopholes in lead paint laws endanger children

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Lead paint laws are designed to protect children from exposure, however loopholes in state and city laws are putting children at risk of poisoning, the I-Team has discovered. (WLS)

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation
Lead paint laws are designed to protect children from exposure, however loopholes in state and city laws are putting children at risk of poisoning, the I-Team has discovered.

Almost 40 years after it was outlawed, the I-Team has learned of local children being poisoned by lead paint.

On Tuesday, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan responded to the I-Team's investigation, which revealed a lack of enforcement of local laws that's putting children in danger. She said more needs to be done to protect children.

The I-Team found a lack of regulation and enforcement when it comes to protecting children from lead, a substance so toxic that the U.S. government banned its use in paint in 1978.

"I want him to be productive and I want him to be healthy," said mother Kimberlee Jackson of her 3-year-old son Ezekial. He tested positive for lead in his blood, prompting the city's department of public health to inspect his home.

"He found lead in my bedroom closet, in my front closet here, he found lead in the bathtub extremely high," Jackson said.

Lead paint was found in a building hallway, too.

Ingesting even a small amount of lead is dangerous to young children and can cause loss of IQ, concentration and fine motor skills. They can develop behavioral issues along with memory and language problems.

By law, it's the landlord, not the city, who is required to post a city warning sign to alert everyone in the 100-unit building. Jackson said she hasn't seen a single posting and the I-Team didn't see any.

"My landlord doesn't see that it's important enough to let other people know," Jackson said.

The management company, IDM Services didn't respond to I-Team questions about whether they properly posted warnings. Instead, they sent a letter from the city showing they're now in compliance and that the lead hazards had been mitigated.

In a statement, they said: "Promptly after the condition was brought to the landlord's attention, immediate steps were taken to remove and/or contain any potential hazard."

"It's terrifying," said mother Caitlin Szontag. "All we can do now is the therapy."

Szontag's family dealt with a similar issue. Two children being treated for lead poisoning and the family said no signs were posted at the Berwyn building where they lived. The attorney general is now suing the landlord for not taking appropriate action to get rid of the lead. That landlord wouldn't talk on camera but in a statement her attorney said they're working with health officials to comply.

Madigan said lead paint laws need to be strengthened.

"You can very easily require that that notice be sent to, or delivered to the different units so everybody knows there is a problem with lead in the building," Madigan said.

"Chicago has more kids poisoned with lead than other city in the U.S." said John Bartlett, of the Metropolitan Tenants Organization. "It is incredible and it's sad."

Bartlett said informing tenants of lead contamination shouldn't be left to landlords.

"The municipality should post and the sign say it's illegal to tear it down because if it's left up to the landlord it's unlikely to post," Bartlett said.

And even if a landlord does post signs alerting tenants to lead contamination in one unit, there's no law requiring the rest of the building be tested.

"It is common sense that if lead is found in one unit or one part of a building, the entire building should be inspected because it's likely to be everywhere and you want that whole building remediated," Madigan said.

Madigan said she plans to reach out to lawmakers in hopes of tightening lead paint regulations.

The I-Team asked both the Chicago and Cook County health departments to respond to our ongoing investigation. Officials from both agencies said they follow all state laws and city ordinances.
Related Topics:
healthI-Teamleadlisa madiganpaintchildren's healthrental propertyconsumerI-Team lead contaminationBerwynCook County
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