Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (November 23, 2004) -- Maryland Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. committed the state to eliminating childhood lead poisoning in the next six years, as he and Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick joined advocates and parents this morning to announce the successful details of an initiative aimed at boosting the state’s lead rental property registry.

Under Maryland law all pre-1950 constructed residential rental units (an estimated 135,000) must be registered with MDE’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. Working with the state Department of Assessments and Taxation, MDE developed a mailing list of 50,000 potential unregistered units. A letter was sent to property owners this past summer describing the requirements of Maryland’s lead laws. That targeted outreach effort netted 17,000 new registrations —well beyond the Governor’s target of 10,000.

“A decade ago in Maryland, nearly a quarter of children tested had elevated blood lead levels,” Governor Ehrlich said. “In 2003 the number was 2.2 percent. This is extraordinary progress, but our ultimate goal is to get that number down to zero by 2010. And we all know, increasing the pool of property owners voluntarily complying with the law is the key to achieving that goal.”

“We know what causes lead poisoning in children and we know how to prevent it,” the Governor added. “In 2004, there is no excuse for a single child in Maryland to suffer from lead poisoning.”

In a decade, Maryland has reduced the number of children with elevated lead levels by roughly 90 percent, both in Baltimore, where the largest at-risk population is found, and around the state. Much of the decline is the result of prevention efforts on the part of property owners. Increasingly aggressive and effective testing programs and enforcement, especially in areas where children are at risk, have also heightened awareness and lead abatement activity.

“Maryland’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program works when property owners comply with registration requirements of the law,” MDE Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick said. “There is virtually zero lead poisoning in compliant housing. Virtually all poisoning occurs in non-compliant properties. That is why it is vital that these units be identified then made lead safe.”

The rental registry is important for a number reasons:

  1. Required by law as part of standards to be met by property owners for a liability cap;
  2. Provides a listing of properties identified as posing a potential lead paint hazard;
  3. Registration fees provide a significant funding source for state lead poisoning prevention activities.

The public uses information in the registry when searching for rental housing. MDE and other enforcement entities use the registry in determining property owner compliance with lead hazard risk reduction requirements.

The first mailing targeted Baltimore City and nearby jurisdictions. But come the spring, MDE will be undertake another mass mailing with the emphasis on the rest of the state –aiming to further close gaps in the lead registry.

The effects of lead poisoning, a preventable disease, may result in poor school performance, inability to read, aggressive behavior, hearing loss or even mental retardation. By 2000, nearly one million U.S. children under the age of six had blood lead levels greater than 10 micrograms per deciliter, which is considered to be an elevated level by the Centers for Disease Control.