Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Consultant on board, City will have lead action plan in October

The Cincinnati Health Department has contracted with Healthy Housing Solutions, Inc. to develop an action plan to help prevent lead poisoning in residents of the City's older housing stock.

The consultant will review the City's existing programs and its legal authority to prevent and control lead hazards in housing. It will also review other cities' legislation and best practices.

The action plan will be released in October.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls called for an independent assessment of the City's lead prevention program in 2009 after the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that the City had made very little progress on contaminated properties, some of which it had known about for ten years.

At the time, Qualls developed her own plan based on input from national experts.

"It was clear that the City needed an objective review by experts familiar with best practices around the country, and that we needed to include methods for measuring and tracking progress, setting priorities, and building in accountability, if we were going to solve the problem," she said.

Studies have shown that exposure to lead can cause irreversible health effects, including reduced IQ, learning disabilities, and other cognitive and developmental problems. In Cincinnati, lead cleanup has generally occurred only after a child has been poisoned.

Lead-based paints were banned for use in housing in 1978.

"These hazards have been known for decades," Qualls said. "There are no second chances for the children who've been poisoned, and the stakes are simply too high for us to be treating lead poisoning after the fact rather than preventing it in the first place."

The consultant team is in Cincinnati today and will attend this afternoon's Quality of Life Committee meeting, at noon at Cincinnati City Hall.

At the meeting, Cincinnati Health Department Assistant Commissioner Dr. Camille Jones and Department of Community Development Director Michael Cervay will give a quarterly update on their lead prevention efforts.

Also pending before Council is an emergency ordinance that would allow the City accept a grant of up to $4.5 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to fund lead abatement activities in 325 privately-owned owner-occupied and rental properties.

That ordinance was held on the calendar during last Wednesday's Council meeting.