Cleveland To Announce Goal To Become 'Lead Safe' By 2028

A house with a boarded-up window
Houses built before 1978 are considered a risk for lead paint. [ideastream file photo]

Cleveland will announce a goal on Tuesday to bring down the rate of childhood lead poisoning and make the city “lead safe” by 2028, Council President Kevin Kelley said in an interview Monday afternoon.

By 2028, Kelley said, the city aims for no children to register blood-lead levels above five micrograms per deciliter, which experts have considered a threshold for poisoning. He called the 10-year goal “aggressive but reasonable,” saying that the specific details of the city’s plan are still being worked out.

“This is something that we are all very committed to,” he said. “This is going to be a top priority of the city in 2019, but it’s not going to be solved in 2019.”

The city, Cuyahoga County and business and philanthropic leaders will discuss their goals at a news conference late Tuesday morning at Cleveland City Hall, according to a release from Mayor Frank Jackson’s office.

“The city of Cleveland will not be lead free, based on the number of structures that are painted with lead paint,” Kelley said. “But we can get to a safe level, we can get to a level where children are not being exposed to lead.”

A recent Case Western Reserve University study found elevated lead levels among 16.7 percent of the Cleveland kids born in 2012 who were tested.

Cleveland’s rental inspection unit has been examining properties for lead paint violations over the last year and a half. The city’s building and housing director told council in September 2018 that in the program’s first year, inspectors conducted 763 tests, finding 34 violations.  

But a group of advocates has been pushing for council to take up broader legislation requiring lead-safe certificates for all rental properties, schools and child-care facilities built before lead paint was banned in 1978. Then-Councilman Jeff Johnson introduced the measure in 2017 as he sought to challenge Jackson in the mayoral race.

Spencer Wells and Yvonka Hall with the Cleveland Lead Safe Network, interviewed earlier on Monday, said they didn’t know specifically what the city planned to announce. But they hoped Cleveland would focus on making housing safe from toxic paint.

“We’ll support anything that moves decisively towards making rental properties lead safe,” Wells said. “And we’ll be supportive, we’ll do whatever it takes to get that moving. But we’re not going to wait for that.”

Wells and Hall said a related group that includes network members, Cleveland Lead Advocates for Safe Housing, is discussing plans for a possible ballot initiative

The city, county and local hospitals had explored attracting private investment to clean up lead paint hazards. But a feasibility study funded by the Cleveland Foundation and the county board of health said it was “unclear if it is enough of a priority to solicit shared ownership and allocations of funding.”

“The most important thing, the way that we can get our numbers down, is to make sure that properties are lead safe before children move in,” Hall said.

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