Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (November 12, 1999) – As part of a state program to protect children from the hazards of lead poisoning, the Maryland Department of the Environment has mailed letters to more than 26,000 rental property owners to remind them that they must renew their registration with the state’s lead program by December 31.

A state requirement that went into effect in 1996 requires owners of rental properties built before 1950 to register properties with MDE, give tenants lead education materials, and perform special maintenance to control lead paint hazards or perform a lead dust test. Rental property owners who register and meet this standard of care are eligible for lead liability caps. Failure to register a property within 30 days of ownership, or to renew a registration when required, prohibits a property owner from accessing the lead liability relief provision. In addition, property owners who fail to comply with the registry requirements are subject to fines.

For rental properties built between 1950 and 1978, owners must at least pay a $5 per unit fee. If these property owners desire liability relief, they must meet the full standard of care for units built before 1950, including registration.

Lead poisoning is the leading environmental disease in Maryland, and children up to age six are at the greatest risk. Swallowing or breathing lead can slow a child's development and cause learning disabilities and behavior problems. The most common source of childhood lead poisoning in Maryland is from deteriorated or damaged residential lead paint. Ninety-five percent of the housing units built in Maryland before 1950 contain lead paint. The most effective way to prevent lead poisoning is to properly maintain lead-painted surfaces or remove lead-based paints.

Children should be evaluated with a blood lead test, especially if they live or spend time in older housing. Statewide, only 13 percent of children under age six were tested in 1997, and of those, 11 percent showed blood lead levels above the Center for Disease Control (CDC) level of concern. Two percent had lead poisoning or blood lead levels at twice the CDC level of concern, which is above the national average. In Baltimore City, where there is a concentration of older housing, almost 30 percent of those tested had levels of lead in their blood above the CDC level of concern.

Maryland's Lead Paint Poisoning Prevention Program is designed to reduce the incidence of childhood lead poisoning, while maintaining the supply of safe, affordable rental housing. MDE’s lead program regulates risk reduction treatments and lead paint abatement services, and offers liability relief for property owners. State accredited contractors and inspectors are now available statewide to assist with safe lead hazard reduction and compliance with the Maryland lead law.

For further information, or to obtain a registration package, contact MDE’s Lead Hotline at 1-800-776-2706 (in Maryland) or 410-631-4199, or go to MDE’s Lead Line Website at the following URL: