Lead Paint Poisoning in Kentucky: Questions and Answers

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What are the symptoms and causes of lead poisoning?
There may be no symptoms, or symptoms that are non-specific - headaches, irritability, fatigue, lack of appetite, stomach ache; poor attention span, poor memory, and sleeping for long periods. Adults can have reduced fertility and increased miscarriages, or high blood pressure. Long-term effects in children are mental retardation, behavioral problems, impaired coordination/reaction times, weakened muscles, convulsions, coma or death.

Lead poisoning is caused by eating lead (e.g. in paint chips) or breathing it (as in dust containing lead). Until 1977 lead paint was used in house paints, and older housing often still presents a hazard. Lead is also in colored newsprint and car batteries.

Do renters or home buyers have any legal protection against lead paint poisoning?
Effective 12/96, federal law requires that, before the sale or lease of ANY residential property built prior to 1978, the seller or lessor must do the following:

  • Tell the buyer/renter about any known lead-based paint or hazards in the home;
  • Give the buyer/renter any records or reports about lead-based paint hazards in the home;
  • Give the buyer/renter a copy of the EPA pamphlet, "Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home";
  • Include certain warning language in the sale or rental contract, with a signed statement that all requirements have been met; and
  • Keep the signed statement for 3 years.Prospective home buyers (not renters) must also be given 10 days to test the home for lead.

In Kentucky if a lead hazard is discovered in rental housing occupied by a child 6 years old or younger, the tenant may cancel the lease without prejudice.

There are special removal requirements applicable to government-assisted housing.

What if a seller or lessor does not abide by the disclosure requirements?
Federal law allows for triple damages and attorney fees for violations of these requirements, and provides for civil and criminal penalties under the Toxic Substances Control Act, 15 USC 2615, 2689.

In addition, once a lead paint hazard has been identified, the property may not be rented again until the hazard has been taken care of.

If we are living in older housing, how do we find out if there is a lead paint hazard?
There are testing kits you can buy in hardware stores, but their reliability is disputed. There are certified testers, but they are costly for a tenant to employ. The law does not require property owners to test for lead. The most practical approach for low-income renters is to have the blood of children in the household tested for lead levels on a regular basis.

How can I find out if someone in my family has lead poisoning?

  • Have them get a blood test.
  • Medicaid recipients are supposed to be given lead-level screenings on a regular basis.
  • Non-medicaid recipients are eligible for free testing at their local health department.

Reviewed August 2009