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NYC Council passed that #$%@ Vallone-Giuliani lead paint bill (36-17?)

Posted by Anna on July 01, 1999 at 00:06:40:

As reported by all 3 major network 11:00pm news: all 3 channels.... can't find it on the net yet....

Here's a NYTimes online article posted before the vote was in.

June 30, 1999

Lead-Paint Bill Is Expected to Pass
in Vote Wednesday


or New Yorkers who thought the city had solved its
lead paint problem a generation ago, the recent
goings-on at City Hall must seem baffling. For weeks,
the City Council has been caught in a fractious debate
about a bill up for a vote Wednesday that would
supersede the city's 17-year-old lead statute and, its
supporters say, finally help prevent childhood lead

The old law has never been fully enforced. At first, the
city and landlords said it was too strict and would cost
too much to comply with. Then in 1989, a judge
interpreted the law as requiring the removal of all lead
paint. But all sides agreed that was an outdated
approach that would actually endanger more children
than it would help, so the law was still not enforced and
the court fights continued.

Experts now believe that buildings should be
"lead-safe," not necessarily "lead-free." Supporters of
the new bill, including Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and
Council Speaker Peter F. Vallone, say it should help do
just that. But opponents, including several Council
members, health experts and advocates for children
and the environment, say it favors landlords and the
city over children. They also claim it would do more
harm than good.

The bill, which is expected to pass Wednesday, would
set rules and deadlines for landlords to eliminate
hazards but it would largely allow landlords to
supervise themselves. The city would be responsible
for making repairs if a landlord failed to do so, but it
would be extremely difficult for families of children with
lead poisoning to bring lawsuits against landlords or
the city.

Currently, the city and private landlords pay millions
each year to remove lead paint and settle liability
claims. Last year, the city paid $11 million in
settlements as a result of such claims, according to the
City Comptroller's office. Lead removal can cost
$15,000 to $20,000 per apartment.

As the rhetoric echoes through City Hall, lead
poisoning continues to pose a great risk to thousands
of children in New York City and elsewhere in the
country, even 21 years after the use of lead paint for
households was banned nationwide.

The number of lead-related deaths of children in the
city has dropped to virtually zero. But there is no longer
any real argument about the dangers of lead poisoning.
Scientific studies have shown that even low levels of
contamination can cause neurological problems and
other developmental difficulties, including learning
disorders, mild retardation, stunted growth and hearing

Over the last 20 years, there has been a drastic
reduction in the number of the most serious lead
poisoning cases, thanks to advances in treatment,
increased public awareness and the 1978 ban on the
use of lead paint in residences. Also, unleaded
gasoline has been the norm since 1982.

Because the main sources of poisoning are flaking
paint and lead particles in household dust, the great
majority of poisoning cases are in poor, mostly minority
neighborhoods where housing is in bad condition and
landlords are unlikely to make repairs. Children, who
are likely to put anything in their mouth, have long
eaten lead paint chips.

Last year, there were 1,072 confirmed cases of child
lead poisoning in New York City, according to the
Department of Health. Another 7,000 to 8,000 children
were found to have dangerously elevated levels of lead
in their blood.

Officials estimate that a total of 30,000 children are
contaminated citywide.

Lead poisoning prevention remains a very difficult
issue to legislate because it is so costly to eliminate or
contain lead and to pay for lawsuits that result from
lead poisoning. Those costs are borne by landlords
and the city.

"The question becomes: How do the people who are
responsible for housing avoid creating lead hazards
and protect children from exposure," said Don Ryan,
the executive director of the Alliance to End Childhood
Lead Poisoning, a Washington-based advocacy group.

In New York, where real estate and landlord groups are
an influential lobby, writing a lead poisoning prevention
law has been a nearly intractable exercise. Efforts to
draft legislation have dragged on over the years, even
as states like Massachusetts have enacted far more
stringent regulations.

Wednesday vote comes in the wake of litigation that
began in 1985 when five Bronx families with
lead-poisoned children filed a lawsuit against the city
demanding greater protection. The Council had two
choices: draft a new lead law or comply with a judge's
order to enforce the old one. For years, the city paid
contempt fines for failing to enforce the old law.

The long delay in revising the city's lead law belies a
high level of concern about the problem in New York
City. Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx is home to
the country's largest lead poisoning clinic. And New
York City has a strong framework for dealing with
lead-poisoning cases. Children are given blood tests,
and after getting the results, the city Health Department
contacts parents and urges them to seek further care.

The department also sends an inspector to check the
home for lead.

If lead paint is found, the landlord is ordered to make
immediate repairs.

By design, the new bill does not change any of this.
But while confirmed poisoning cases offer a clear
reason to act, prevention is harder to enforce. Experts
now agree it is safer to leave lead paint in place rather
than remove it, as long as it does not begin to peel.
Removing intact lead paint would release lead dust
particles that would remain long after the paint was

And there is general consensus among experts about
the most effective measures to prevent contamination,
including the use of a "wipe test" to check for lead dust
using a damp cloth.

The action in the Council comes at a time when many
in government want to do more. In the city's new
budget, approved earlier this month, Vallone included
$2 million to pay for lead screening and to develop a
lead-free safe house in Bushwick. The house, modeled
after one at Montefiore, would give children who have
lead poisoning and their families a place to stay while
their house is being repaired.

In the meantime, supporters of the bill are standing
behind their efforts.

"This is a very simple bill," Vallone said. "We are doing
a lot more now than ever done before. Can you do
more? Of course we can do more, and we're not
closing the door. This is a good bill to prevent lead

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