Lead Paint Poisoning
If you are living in a New York City Housing Authority building, or any building, that was built before 1978, you have good reason to be concerned about lead paint in your home. Young children who ingest or inhale lead paint are at risk for devastating injuries, including brain damage, behavioral and cognitive disorders, developmental delays, and nervous system damage.
Recently, NYCHA acknowledged that it failed to conduct required lead-paint inspections throughout its 175,000 apartments. It has been reported that more than 800 New York City children have already tested positive for lead levels of concern, 5 mcg/dL or higher. We expect this number to grow as more parents have their children tested in the wake of this revelation.
In June of 2018, the Federal government accused NYCHA of misconduct and repeated cover-ups in an attempt to circumvent lead paint regulations. New York City entered into a consent decree agreeing to spend an additional 1 billion dollars over the next 4 years and 200 million per year after that to remediate the unsanitary and unsafe conditions NYCHA tenants have lived with for too long. Unfortunately, this funding cannot undo the damage that has already been done to NYC children with elevated lead levels in their blood.
If you suspect that your child has been exposed to lead paint, we urge you to get your child’s blood tested. If your child has been diagnosed with elevated lead levels, you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible to learn your rights. There are strict time constraints for bringing claims against NYCHA.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is lead poisoning?
Lead poisoning occurs when a person, usually a child under the age of six, ingests or inhales lead which accumulates in the person’s body. A lead level of 5mg or more is the Federal, and now City, standard for public health intervention. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has recognized there is no known safe lead level.
How can children be exposed to lead?
Peeling and chipping lead paint is the most common way that children are exposed to lead in their homes. Children can ingest or inhale paint dust. Children can also be exposed by touching surfaces which contain lead and then putting their fingers in their mouth, as well as from toys or other objects that made contact with the lead.
Is my landlord, including NYCHA, legally responsibly if my child has a high lead level?
Any landlord, including NYCHA, may be held liable for a child’s lead-related injuries, if the landlord was aware (or should have been aware) that a child under the age of six was residing within the home and knew that the residence contained a dangerous lead condition and failed to remedy it.
Is there a New York City law that speaks specifically about lead paint?
Yes. In New York City, Local Law 1 of 2004 requires landlords to identify and fix lead paint hazards in apartments with young children. This law applies to your apartment if:
- The building was built before 1960 (or between 1960 and 1978 if the owner knows that the building has lead paint), and
- The building has 3 or more apartments, and
- A child under the age of 6 lives in your apartment.
What must my landlord do if my building is covered under Local Law 1?
Your landlord must find out if any children younger than 6 years live in the building and inspect those apartments for lead paint hazards every year. Landlords must use safe work practices and trained workers when fixing lead paint hazards and when doing general repair work that disturbs lead paint. Local Law 1 requires landlords to use firms certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency when disturbing more than 100 square feet of lead paint, replacing windows, or fixing violations issued by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). Landlords must repair lead paint hazards before a new tenant moves into an apartment. Landlords must keep records of all notices, inspections, repairs of lead paint hazards, and other matters related to the law. HPD may ask the landlord for copies of this paperwork.
As a tenant in a building that is covered by Local Law 1, do I have any responsibilities?
Yes. Tenants must fill out and return the ANNUAL NOTICE form they receive each year from their landlord. This form tells your landlord if any children younger than 6 years live in your apartment. Wash floors, window sills, hands, toys, and pacifiers often. Remind your doctor to test your child for lead poisoning at ages 1 and 2. Ask the doctor about testing older children. If a child younger than 6 comes to live with you during the year or if you have a baby, you must notify your landlord in writing. The form used by a landlord and tenant can be obtained online at https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/lead/lead-annual-notice.pdf.
SETTLEMENTS AND VERDICTS
Below please find some recent settlement and verdicts obtained for children suffering from lead-paint poisoning injuries:
- 2018 – A Bronx jury awarded a blockbuster verdict of $58,000,000 to a child who at the age of 4 was exposed to lead paint within her NYCHA apartment. The child suffered from extensive cognitive defects which will permanently have a severe effect on her concentration and memory.
- 2017 – A settlement was reached with a private landlord in the amount of $750,000, for a child’s lead-paint poisonings, which resulted in the child having developmental disabilities, hyperactivity, anemia, emotional problems, speech problems and cognitive brain damage.
- 2014 – In the Bronx, a private landlord agreed to settle a case brought on behalf of a lead-poisoned child for $750,000. The child suffered from organic brain damage with emotional problems, speech delay, hyperactivity and loss of IQ
- 2013 – In Queens, a private landlord agreed to pay $985,000 to a child injured by lead paint. The child suffered from permanent neurological and cognitive injuries.
- 2011 – In Brooklyn, a settlement was reached with a private landlord for $1,500,000 for a child who suffered from lead-paint poisoning and suffered significant language and behavioral issues.
- 2009 – In Bronx, NYCHA settled with a two children who suffered from lead-paint poisoning, for $1,900,000. The children suffered from learning disabilities, neuro-cognitive disorders, impairment of perceptual-motor abilities, language impairment and memory impairment.