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Allegheny

Allegheny County urges municipalities to inspect rental properties for lead

| Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018, 6:48 p.m.
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The Allegheny County Health Department is encouraging Pittsburgh and other municipalities to pass ordinances requiring municipal workers to inspect rental properties for lead in their paint and water.

A county lead task force in December recommended that the county adopt a rental lead inspection program similar to one in Rochester, N.Y.

That program requires the municipality to inspect a rental property each time it is sold to a new owner to make sure its paint and water do not contain unsafe amounts of lead. A database of properties deemed lead safe and lead free is available to the public there.

The health department has drafted a model ordinance, and plans to work with Pittsburgh and several other municipalities who are interested in adopting such an ordinance, according to department Director Dr. Karen Hacker.

Elected officials in each municipality would need to vote to adopt the ordinance, said Abby Wilson, the department’s deputy director.

The program will be easier to adopt for municipalities that already register rental properties, which Pittsburgh does not, Hacker said.

If that approach is ineffective, the county could adopt a countywide ordinance, Hacker said.

Philadelphia requires all landlords to get a lead-safe/lead-free certification on their own prior to renting units out, but there is no enforcement unless a child in the unit is exposed, prompting a citation, Hacker said.

The county is on track for 23,717 children under age 6 to undergo blood lead testing this year, up from 13,901 in 2012 and 17,081 last year, according to a health department report released Wednesday.

About 13,000 children are born each year in Allegheny County, Hacker said.

“We’ve got a catch-up period, but the bottom line is if you consider how many were tested way back in 2012, we are substantially increasing the number of people who are being tested,” Hacker said.

A county ordinance requiring all children to undergo blood lead testing at ages 1 and 2 took effect Jan 1.

Of children tested this year through March, about 2 percent had a blood lead level of more than 5 micrograms per deciliter, the health department report said. Anything about 5 micrograms per deciliter is considered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be elevated. In 2010, about 6 percent of children tested in the county had an elevated level. At that time, an elevated level was 10.

Areas with high concentrations of children with high lead levels include the Mon Valley, Pittsburgh’s North Side and the Allegheny Valley, according to the report.

“What we’ve seen is this is highly correlated with dilapidated housing, poverty, low educational values, things like that,” Hacker said.

Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Theresa at 412-380-5669, tclift@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tclift.

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