MassLandlords is calling all legislators to co-sponsor SD.862 and HD.2630, each “An Act to Further Lead Remediation in Rental Housing by Increasing The Deleading Credit.” These bills are drawing a diverse, statewide, cross-aisle coalition of co-sponsors. We’re hopeful this can be a rare moment of unanimity in public health response.
Lead is not like iron, where kids need a little in their Paw Patrol multivitamin. Lead is dangerous even in small amounts. It plugs up the places young neurons need to grow. Massachusetts was a nationwide leader in the 1970s when we enacted our first lead remediation law. This law has been dramatically effective and targeted. Lead poisonings have fallen in severity and frequency.
But the curves are flattening out. Each year in Massachusetts, roughly 3,000 children still show up in screening with elevated lead levels: poisoned. Lead exposure permanently harms kids’ smarts (specifically, by 2 IQ points per each microgram per deciliter). This harms their ability to make a living. Lead increases their chances of crime and other adverse social interaction. Poisonings increased during the pandemic as folks stayed at home much more than usual.
The cost of deleading an average unit is $6,000. If windows are involved, the average will be $15,000. We’ve seen quotes for historical preservation at $30,000. Yet the current deleading credit has not changed since it was first enacted, $1,500 per unit. We’d increase it to $15,000.
Yes, landlords are required to delead. But enforcement is lacking. And landlords often lack the resources to remediate anyway. Even with federal HUD grants, we’re currently on track to delead every unit only by 2170. If our bill becomes law, we will make that 2040.
Imagine a lead-free Massachusetts. Families with children will have their pick of apartments. Landlords won’t risk inadvertent discrimination. And our children will grow up to be what we need them to be: smart, successful, happy and ready to tackle society’s next challenge (climate change, anyone?).
Let’s cross lead off our “to do” list once and for all. We can do it!
—Doug Quattrochi is executive director of MassLandlords