The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) this week announced they reached the settlement with one of the nation's largest property management firms, the Denver-based Apartment Investment and Management Co. (AIMCO).
"Protecting our nation's children from the dangers of lead-based paint is of paramount concern. Eliminating lead-based paint hazards in older low-income housing is essential if childhood lead poisoning is to be eradicated," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. "AIMCO is to be commended for its voluntary disclosure and other efforts to make its housing lead-safe. We urge other landlords to take their cue from this responsible action."
"This agreement goes a long way in making certain parents can raise their children in safe and healthy homes," said HUD Secretary Mel Martinez. The settlement demonstrates the value of management companies and landlords working closely with HUD to prevent children from exposure to lead paint, Martinez added.
AIMCO allegedly failed to warn its tenants that their homes may contain lead-based paint hazards in violation of the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act. Under the settlement, AIMCO has agreed to test and clean up lead-based paint hazards in more than 130,000 apartments nationwide and pay a $129,580 penalty. The penalty and the number of units being tested and cleaned are the largest ever in a lead disclosure settlement.
Because AIMCO voluntarily disclosed violations of the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act, the company was able to significantly reduce its penalty.
Approximately three-quarters of the nation's housing stock built before 1978 (approximately 64 million dwellings) contains some lead-based paint. Of those, approximately 25 million housing units have lead-based paint hazards such as chipping and peeling paint and lead in dust, according to a recent HUD survey.
Even at low levels, lead poisoning in children can cause IQ deficiencies, reading and learning disabilities, impaired hearing, reduced attention spans hyperactivity and other behavior problems. At higher levels, lead can damage a child's kidneys and central nervous system and cause anemia, coma, convulsions and even death.
Nearly 1 million of the nation's children under age six have blood lead levels high enough to impair the ability to think, concentrate and learn. While average blood lead levels have declined over the past decade, one in six low-income children living in older housing is believed to be lead poisoned. Pregnant women poisoned by lead can transfer lead to a developing fetus, resulting in adverse developmental effects.
As part of the ongoing efforts to protect children from lead poisoning, EPA also adopted tough new hazard standards in March 2001 to identify dangerous levels of lead in paint, dust and soil. These standards are more protective than previous EPA guidance and, for the first time, provide homeowners and others with enforceable standards to protect children from hazards posed by lead, including children in federal housing.
edited by Sandy Smith