Lead Paint Poisoning Lawyer in St. Louis, MO
Children lead poisoning in America is often the result of ingesting lead paint. The primary cause of lead poisoning in St. Louis, MO, is lead paint that has deteriorated. Typically, legal cases include children under the age of seven years who unknowingly eat small chips of the paint that are flaking off the surfaces in the home.
Even though the country banned lead paint in 1979, it is suspected that more than half of children who live in urban settings are exposed each year. The children affected tend to live in dwellings that are poorly maintained and cold. Unfortunately, St. Louis, Missouri, has one of the highest rates of children lead poisoning in the U.S. and, in fact, the highest rate in the state.
Between 1999 – 2003, well over 1,500 of the 29,000 children in St. Louis that are younger than six years old were poisoned by lead every year. In 2003, Mayor Francis G. Slay enacted the “Comprehensive Action Plan to Eliminate Childhood Lead Poisoning in St. Louis.” The plan was derived focus on preventing of lead poisoning of children. By 2007, just four years after introducing the act, the progress as a result of the plan helped the City to reach its first major goal: cut childhood toxicity in half in four years. However, despite the progress, one in twenty children in the area has a high blood lead level.
About Lead Poisoning
Firstly, let’s look at a few key facts:
- There is not a known level of exposure to lead that is considered to be safe
- Lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects different body systems and is especially hazardous to children
- Lead poisoning is preventable
- Lead in bone can be released into the blood during pregnancy and then becomes a source of exposure to a developing fetus
- Lead in the body is usually distributed to the liver, kidney, brain, and bones. It then stores in the bones and teeth, building up over time.
Lead is a toxic element found in the Earth’s crust. Owing to its widespread use, it has resulted in human exposure, extensive environmental contamination, and severe public health problems and risks.
Some of the primary sources of environmental pollution include:
- Leaded gasoline
- Leaded paint
- Leaded aviation fuel
While over three-quarters of global lead consumption come from the production of lead-acid motor vehicle batteries, the metal is also used in a wide range of other products, such as:
- Lead crystal glassware
- Stained glass
- Ceramic glazes
- Traditional medicine
What’s more, drinking water that is delivered via lead pipes or pipes that have been joined with lead solder could contain the toxic metal.
The Ban on Lead Poisoning in St. Louis, MO
In 1977, the U.S. government banned lead-based paint, but, it still lingers in an estimated 38 million homes in dust and along old window frames and trims. Poisoning in children has been linked to hormonal issues, lower IQs, and behavioral problems, costing taxpayers in the region of $55 billion each year. A study conducted in 2009 found that each dollar spent on attempting to limit exposure to lead saved taxpayers as much as $221 by reducing spending on special education, health care, and crime.
Federal rules were finalized in 2010 after years of delay, stating that firms and workers engaged in repairs, painting, and renovations, have to be trained and certified in the use of lead-safe best practices. However, enforcement at both local and state level has proven to be inconsistent. If states worked to vehemently enforce the federal rule, there would be a dramatic reduction in the amount of lead entering our systems and a better chance of protecting the children of St. Louis.
Risks and Renovations
Any person, adult or child, may be at risk depending on where they live, go to school, work, or child care facilities. Children under the age of 6 are at greatest risk, though, as they tend to put objects and hands into their mouth, which could be contaminated with lead dust.
However, low-income communities tend to be more vulnerable to poisoning, especially those people who live in dilapidated houses. The craze for renovating older homes also has unintentional consequences, with children across the economic spectrum now being put at risk.
Lead can have serious health consequences on children. High levels of exposure can lead to attacks on the central nervous system and brain, leading to convulsions, coma, and even death. Those children that survive severe poisoning could be left with behavior disorders and mental retardation. Lower levels of exposure do not seem to cause any noticeable symptoms, but lead is known to produce a range of injuries across multiple body systems. Particularly, it affects brain development, leading to low IQs, reduced attention spans, behavioral changes, and antisocial behavior, as well as reduced educational achievements. It can also result in hypertension, anemia, immune-toxicity, renal impairment, and toxicity in the reproductive organs. Both the behavioral and neurological effects are reported to be irreversible.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has reportedly estimated that lead exposure in 2013 accounted for more than 850,000 deaths due to its long-term effects on health.
How Children Are Exposed to Lead
Lead-contaminated dust and paint are the primary sources of exposure in the U.S. Any housing constructed before 1978 is likely to contain some degree of lead-based paint, but it is the deterioration of the paint that leads to problems. Reportedly, some 24 million homes have deteriorated leaded paint and higher levels of lead-contaminated dust.
What’s more, lead can be found in a range of products, including:
- Painted furniture, toys, and toy jewelry – older toys handed down between generations, like rocking chairs, antique dolls, or toy jewelry may contain lead.
- Children often bite and chew on toys, and if the toy contains lead, it can lead to elevated blood lead levels.
- Traditional home remedies
- Liquid or food containers – liquids and food stored in lead crystal or even lead-glazed pottery may become contaminated.
- Plumbing products, including fixtures and pipes, especially older materials in homes built prior to 1970.
What’s more, you could bring the metal home on your clothes and hands, indirectly contaminating the home. For example, if you work with the metal in occupations such as battery recycling, painting and renovation, smelting, and screen printing, or you indulge in hobbies like stained glass, pottery making, or fishing, you may unknowingly be at risk of lead exposure.
The Health Effects of Lead Exposure
The metal can affect just about every system and organ in the body, and elevated blood lead levels can happen without any noticeable symptoms. Below is an overview of the health effects of exposure to lead.
- Lead in Children
In children, the number one target for lead toxicity is their nervous system. Even the lowest levels of the metal in the blood of children may result in slowed growth, anemia, damage to the nervous system and brain, and a range of learning and behavior issues.
- Lead and Pregnant Women
Lead can build up in the system over time, where it is typically stored in the bones along with calcium. When a woman is pregnant, the lead is released from the bones as a form of maternal calcium and is then used to assist in the formation of bones in the fetus, which applies in particular if the woman does not have an adequate amount of dietary calcium in her system. What’s more, the metal can be circulated in her bloodstream, traveling through the placenta and into the fetus. Lead in a pregnant person’s body can result in severe effects on the pregnancy and the developing baby, including:
- Reduced embryo growth
- Premature birth
- Lead may be transmitted through the mother’s breast milk
- Toxicity in Adults
Lead is just as harmful to adults as it is to children. Adults who are exposed to toxicity can suffer from a range of problems, such as:
- Reproductive problems in both women and men
- Effects on the nervous system
- Decreased kidney function
- Effects on the cardiovascular system, including incidences of hypertension and increased blood pressure
Testing and Reporting Toxicity
Children should be tested for lead exposure, especially when they are between the ages of six months and three years old. It is usually children of this age group spending a significant amount of time on the floor, exploring, and putting things in their mouths. Further, all siblings of children diagnosed with higher lead levels should be tested, too.
Children who receive Medicaid benefits are required to have blood tests done to check for lead poisoning when they are between 12 and 24 months old. Others who should be tested include:
- Newborn babies of women who had elevated blood levels of lead during their pregnancy or who suspected they did;
- Pregnant women and children who live in homes that were built prior to 1978, and such homes that are undergoing renovations;
- People living in homes that undergo renovation may need more frequent blood tests during the period of restoration and also once renovations are completed;
- Children under the age of 6 are annually tested if they live in a high-risk area or visit such an area for 10 or more hours per week.
In Saint Louis, all Medicaid-eligible children must have lead tests performed on blood levels at both 12 and 24 months of age, no matter where they live. In universal testing areas, tests are required for every child under the age of 6 who lives in or visits a high-risk area for more than 10 hours per week. In targeted testing areas, children between the ages of 6 months and six years must be screened on a yearly basis using the HCY Lead Risk Assessment Guide Questionnaire. Doctors are obliged to report all lead test results to the Missouri state health department.
Treatment for Exposure
Treatment for this type of toxicity tends to vary depending on how much lead is found in the bloodstream. The most essential part of therapy is to reduce the amount of exposure to lead. Children who are found to have high levels of lead in their blood are usually hospitalized in order to receive medication known as a chelating agent. The chelating agent chemically binds with the lead to allow the body to excrete it naturally.
Local Lead Laws
Here is an overview of the lead laws in Saint Louis, MO:
- If an adult of child has high blood lead levels, the state’s public health department might send a lead inspector to the home to help homeowners find the metal. If necessary, the public health department will further test the exterior surfaces of the home, the water, the soil, and any other possible places where the metal could be found.
- The city, county, and even the state of Missouri have enacted laws to protect children from lead poisoning. Both landlords and homeowners are required, under the laws, to remove all traces of the metal and to make the home lead-safe.
- Even if someone has not had a blood test for lead, they are encouraged and entitled to call the public health department. The department may be able to send an inspector over to a home if there are children under the age of seven years old living or staying in the home during the day.
- Any and all real estate transactions conducted in Saint Louis County necessitate that a buyer must be told about the potential of lead paint in any property built prior to 1978.
- All licensed day care centers in the county and, in fact, the city, must be safe from lead. The type of inspection that will be necessary depends on local codes and laws.
- If a homeowner prefers a private lead or environmental inspector, one may be hired by the homeowner to test for lead in the home.
The idea of the lead laws is to protect children from being exposed to the substance and therefore poisoned. For people planning on buying or renting a home that was built prior to 1978, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Firstly, federal laws require that homeowners or renters are given particular information before they buy or rent a home build before 1978. This information includes:
- Sellers- who must disclose known information regarding lead-based paint and associated metal-based paint hazards before they sell the house. Sales contracts have to include a disclosure form about the substance and buyers also have up to ten days to check for any hazards.
- Landlords who are also obligated to disclose known information on the substance and any associated hazards before a lease can take effect. Leases must also include a disclosure form about the substance.
- The Residential Lead-Based Paint Disclosure Program must be followed.
Since April 2010, federal law has required that contractors that perform repairs, painting projects, and renovations that disturb lead-based paint in child care facilities, schools, and homes built before 1978 must be certified and must follow certain work practices to prevent contamination. Prior to April 2010, contractors were merely required to follow three straightforward procedures, namely:
- Minimize dust
- Contain the work area
- Do a thorough clean up
Typically, city lead inspectors carry out inspections to identify toxic paint hazards. The inspections are usually performed on residential city properties, and there is no charge where pregnant women and children under six years of age live. In instances where hazards are found, owners might be able to apply for financial assistance. The aid is awarded based on several criteria, including:
- If the property currently occupied by the owner:
- Do children under six years of age live on the property?
- What is the occupant’s income?
Lead Poisoning and Lawsuits in St Louis, MO
If you or your child has been exposed to the toxic metal, the trick is to determine who made the decision to incorporate lead, or who failed to remove it, and whether that person may be liable for the devastating consequences to which their actions have led. It is a complex process that requires legal assistance to determine liability.
Pursuing a Lead Paint Poisoning Lawsuit in St Louis
Once the appropriate medical care has been sought, the next step is to explore the legal options. You should contact one of the knowledgeable attorneys at Ashcroft & Gerel as soon as possible for a case evaluation.
A lead paint poisoning lawyer will be able to advise you in terms of your legal options and can help to determine whether or not there is sufficient evidence, if any, to support a lawsuit. An attorney will then conduct an investigation into the incident of exposure with the aim of uncovering any necessary evidence.
People who were exposed to lead by another person’s actions or who gave birth to a baby with a birth defect or if a child has suffered from a learning disability due to lead exposure, you may be able to claim for damages. A lead paint poisoning lawyer will help you take the next steps to holding the liable parties responsible.