Press Release

ANNAPOLIS (May 13, 2008) – Governor Martin O’Malley signed three bills to protect Maryland’s children from exposure to lead through toys and in homes.

“Together these bills will continue Maryland’s leadership to eliminate childhood lead exposure by 2010,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “By adding protection for owners and tenants, encouraging the purchase and renovation of properties in violation, and enforcing standards for children’s toys, Maryland is taking important steps to increase the amount of lead-free, affordable housing.”

Governor O’Malley signed the following bills today.

Lead—Containing Children’s Products—Prohibition mandates that any consumable products, marketed to children under age 6 or products that may be foreseeably used by children under age 6, contain lead in no amount greater than 0.06% weight by total weight for lead-containing products. This bill regulates items including accessories and jewelry, clothing, decorative objects, furniture, lunch boxes, eating utensils and toys. It requires independent, third-party testing and mandates that certification be provided to retailers and/or the Maryland Department of the Environment upon request. It subjects manufacturers to civil fines ranging from $1,000 per day for each violation up to a misdemeanor charge and a fine of $10,000 or imprisonment up to one year for willful violation.

The Lead Poisoning Prevention Act of 2008 will protect owners and tenants by ensuring that information about the Maryland Department of the Environment’s (MDE) lead certification is included in the Maryland Home Improvement Commission (MHIC) licensure process and provides for a $5,000 penalty for each violation. The Act’s changes to the definition of “lead-safe housing” will allow the Department to establish a lead contaminated dust test as part of a more stringent standard for both housing that is and is not related to the relocation of a child with a high blood lead level. Finally, if an owner cannot verify compliance with the lead standards, a tenant will be able to break a lease or rental agreement and have the property owner pay for reasonable relocation expenses. As a result, the risk of lead poisoning will be reduced for lower income tenants with young children who may not otherwise have the means to pay for relocation expenses.

Lead Risk Reduction - Acquisition of Property - Compliance Requirements will allow persons, including local governments and non-profit organizations, to purchase rental properties with lead paint violations and bring them into compliance within a prescribed schedule. This bill would encourage the purchase of these properties by responsible property owners, resulting in an increase in the stock of lead safe housing in the State. Under current law, purchasers of properties with lead paint violations are in violation of the law from the date of purchase.

Lead is one of the most significant and widespread environmental hazards for children in Maryland. Children are at greatest risk from birth to age six while their neurological systems are developing. Sustained exposure to lead can cause long-lasting neurological damage or death. Effects of sustained exposure include learning disabilities, shortened attention span, irritability, and lowered IQ.

The major source of exposure for children is lead paint dust from deteriorated lead paint or from home renovation. Most childhood exposure occurs through children's normal hand-to-mouth activity after contact with a source of leaded dust. The most effective prevention of childhood lead poisoning is to reduce or eliminate exposure.

The Maryland Department of the Environment's (MDE) Lead Poisoning Prevention Program serves as the coordinating agency of statewide efforts to eliminate childhood lead poisoning. Under the 1994 "Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing Law", MDE assures compliance with mandatory requirements for lead risk reduction in rental units built before 1950; maintains a statewide listing of registered and inspected units; and, provides blood lead surveillance through a registry of test results of all children tested in Maryland. The Lead Program also oversees case management follow-up by local health departments for children with elevated blood lead levels; certifies and enforces performance standards for inspectors and contractors working in lead hazard reduction; and performs environmental investigations for lead poisoned children. The Lead Program provides oversight for community education to parents, tenants, rental property owners, homeowners, and health care providers to enhance their role in lead poisoning prevention.