Illinois Attorney General sues landlord after lead found in building

ABC7 I-Team Investigation

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone WLS logo
Friday, August 26, 2016
Lead Paint
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The Illinois Attorney General is suing a suburban landlord after the ABC7 I-Team uncovered children's exposure to lead.

The Illinois Attorney General is suing a suburban landlord after the ABC7 I-Team uncovered children's exposure to lead.

The landlord of a property that has been tainted with lead is being sued for not taking appropriate action that was required by the Cook County Public Health Department.

In May, the I-Team reported about young children with lead poisoning living in that home.

Caitlin Szontagh said she's pleased her landlord is being held accountable in a lawsuit filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

"When we saw your story, we reached out to the Cook County Department of Public Health and asked if we could be of help in terms of enforcing this statute," Lisa Madigan said.

The Szontahg family lived at a home in Berwyn when their 4-year-old son, Jackson, tested positive for lead in his blood. This prompted the Cook County Department of Public Health to test for lead, which was found throughout the home.

Later, younger brother, 2-year-old Marshall, had such high lead levels that he was on potent doses of medication for weeks, which prompted the county to come out again.

Illinois has one of the highest lead poisoning rates in the nation. More than 4,500 children tested positive last year in Cook County alone. Lead poisoning can severely affect mental and physical development in children.

On Thursday, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, filed this lawsuit - click here to read the preliminary injunction - against landlord Patricia Groves for violating the Lead Poisoning Prevention Act.

"They have failed to remediate, in addition to that, they have failed to notify other tenants in the building that lead was found in one of the apartments," Madigan said.

Groves had nothing to say to the I-Team in May. But in a statement sent through her attorneys Thursday, she says, "We were very saddened to hear that a child may have been exposed to lead on our property. Our investigation continues into the cause and we hope he recovers fully and quickly. In the meantime, we are cooperating fully with county health officials to ensure that the property is safe going forward. We encourage all parents and landlords to educate themselves of the danger of lead poisoning."

Madigan said the lawsuit will ensure that the apartment cannot be rented again until the health department confirms that the lead has been correctly removed.

"It is nice that the attorney general is getting involved and hopefully is going to be taken care of hopefully the issues in the building will be taken care of," Szontahg said.

The family has been living with relatives challenging an eviction in the apartments. They hope the attorney general's new lawsuit will get the eviction notice off their record, so they can find a new place to live.

For more information about lead paint poisoning:

Cook County Public Health - Lead Poisoning

Lead Safe Illinois Task Force at Loyola University Chicago - Child Law Center and Policy Institute

"The Ripple Effects of Childhood Lead Poisoning" Report (Roll your cursor over each effect to learn more.)

The Illinois Department of Public Health - 2014 Lead Report

Lead Safe Illinois

The National Lead Information Center - 1-800-424-LEAD