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Baltimore’s project housing are getting bad press once again: this week, the city council announced that it is holding an investigation on the lead poisoning that’s plaguing its rental properties.

According to the Baltimore Sun, impoverished Black children in East and West Baltimore are disproportionately suffering from exposure to lead in their homes. This preventable issue can wreak permanent damage to a child’s health and mental capabilities. It is also an issue that city authorities promised they would fix six years ago.

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The city council announced that it would launch its own investigation after it was prompted by a report published by the Baltimore Sun back in December highlighting the problem. The newspaper reports:

The Sun investigation found that the system Maryland has set up to protect youngsters from deteriorating lead-based paint is inadequately enforced and relies on data riddled with errors. Under state law, regulators are supposed to keep track of all rental homes old enough to have lead paint, and the homes are required to pass an inspection.

But the government rarely checks. A state or city worker typically visits a rental unit only after a routine medical test finds a child has been poisoned. And even then, cases fall through the cracks.

While the number of lead-poisoning cases has fallen significantly, at least 4,900 Maryland children have been poisoned in the past decade, their brains exposed to a contaminant that causes lasting learning and behavioral problems. There are likely more victims, because not all children are tested.

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The Sun’s story focused on the plight of a 3-year-old boy who lived in a run down West Baltimore house that had crumbling paint on the walls. The landlord of the building neglected to fix the problem (as he wasn’t required to take any action). As a result, the two of the child’s siblings began suffering from lead poisoning within another year.

Staffing for inspection is a large part of the problem. There are currently less than a dozen staffers at the Maryland Department of the Environment that are mandated to review the 400,000 rental units in the state.

Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, one of the members leading the city council’s investigation, is calling for more funding to build a larger staff and more sophisticated database. She and her colleagues believe that having stronger resources in manpower and technology can record and obliterate poor living conditions for the city’s disenfranchised.

[SOURCE: Baltimore Sun]

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