"Last Thursday, state Sen. Beverly Gard (R-Greenfield), along with Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter and Janet McCabe, executive director of the Improving Kids’ Environment Program, held a press conference at the Statehouse announcing Gard’s authoring of Senate Bill 143, an act that would redefine the way Indiana handles several issues surrounding lead poisoning among children.
“The CDC has identified lead poisoning as the No. 1 preventable childhood disease,” McCabe said.
If passed into law, this bill would battle the problem on several fronts. First would be the creation of what Gard is calling the Indiana Lead Safe Advisory Council, a group set up to establish rules for lead safe work practices among building contractors and to come up with funding sources to assist property owners with the costs of making their properties safer. Similar to this is a section of the bill that would require annual lead risk assessments of childcare facilities in the state. Any building constructed before 1978 (the year lead-based paint was outlawed) is considered a risk factor. There are over 2 million homes in Indiana built before 1978, making it the 11th most lead prevalent state in the nation. The inhaling of dust or the ingesting of lead-based paint chips is the most common cause of lead poisoning.
Currently, there is no law holding property owners accountable to fix the causes of lead poisoning in their properties, even after a child living there has been poisoned.
“That is a practice that we think has to be stopped,” Gard said.
She said that there have been cases when a child has been poisoned in a certain property, has moved out, the property then rented to another family with children and another child is poisoned. That simply wouldn’t be possible if this bill is passed into law, under which property owners would be required to have their property remediated before renting to any more families with children.
The bill also has a large section dealing with the sales and consumer side of the lead problem. It would prohibit, under punishment of a Class A misdemeanor, the removal or covering up of lead warnings on any products, especially common in certain children’s toys.
“The Attorney General’s Office has provided our investigative enforcement assistance to help them,” Carter said.
Because a large factor in lead poisoning is how the existing paint on surfaces is handled during remodeling or repainting processes, the bill would also require hardware stores or places where paint is sold to carry information, both in posted signs and pamphlets as well as in their staff trainings, regarding the safe handling of previously existing lead paint. Through their research with a program they called “Secret Shoppers,” IKE found that there is a disturbingly small knowledge base about lead paint and its safe handling in places where paint is sold.
Finally, the bill would require a much higher percentage of testing for “at risk” children — typically children under the age of 6 living in low-rent housing facilities. Currently, only about 30 percent of children that fall within this classification are tested.
The bill is now awaiting assignment to a committee, after which it will go to the Senate for its second reading.
“This bill is a tremendous step for public health in Indiana,” McCabe said, “especially for the health of our most vulnerable citizens.”