Law

Lead Poisoning Dangers Lurk in the Shadow of Covid-19

Sheltering in Place Isn’t a Safe Option for Some City Residents

With the COVID-19 pandemic raging, government officials have asked state residents to remain sheltered in the safest possible place: their homes.

Yet not all people feel equally safe in their own homes — a problem that especially impacts lower income residents.

When Home Isn’t a Refuge

While staying at home may slow the spread of COVID-19, it also may come with a variety of other risks, particularly for lower income renters. These risks include added exposure to lead, mold, vermin, dangerous wiring etc.

Speaking in a recent article in LAist, a health advocate speculated about the risk of extended shut-ins kicking off a new wave of health issues:

“The challenge before us today, especially in the context of the COVID epidemic, is to make sure that these existing conditions in homes don’t produce a second wave of health problems,” said Dr. David Jacobs of the National Center for Healthy Housing, a nonprofit advocacy and research group.

Jacobs said these issues may lead to respiratory issues and other health problems, ultimately leading to developmental delays.

Risks to New York Renters

New York City has long struggled with lead issues in rental housing. While the number of lead poisoning cases has declined in recent years thanks to stronger enforcement and regulation, the city continues to be one of the nation’s hotspots.

Lead is a potent neurotoxin that can lead to serious physical problems, permanent brain damage or even death in the most serious cases. Lead dust emanates from lead based paint and is often inhaled or otherwise ingested by children and adults in premises that have been previously painted with this dangerous substance. It becomes airborne either through chipping paint or when it is scraped from friction surfaces such as from the normal functions of door posts or windows. Even small levels can be highly dangerous. In the case of children, at times they physically ingest small paint chips via normal hand to mouth activities. All ingestion of lead paint is highly dangerous.

To avoid risks from lead, mold, faulty wiring, or animal infestations, New York renters rely on landlord compliance and government enforcement. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has diminished these protections. Residents with problems within their apartments may even be more exposed during abatement work since they cannot leave their homes as easily and often are left in their apartment during the very dangerous abatement process. This means that a young child living in an apartment with lead hazards is now spending even more time in that potentially toxic environment. Landlords may claim not to be able to fix issues in a timely manner due to virus-related disruptions. Inspections or court actions are delayed due to the shutdown of the courts.

Compounding all of this is the hesitancy amongst parents to take their children to the pediatrician for well checkups during the pandemic.  In addition to recent reporting showing a sharp decline in children receiving scheduled immunizations, far less children are also having their blood lead levels measured.  Some have estimated as much as an 80% decline in reporting of blood lead levels in New York City from norms prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.  Without children receiving blood tests, agencies such as the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Healthy Homes Program are not contacted to identify the lead hazards in the home and order the landlords to perform lead abatements which, in turn, means the child remains in the toxic environment and sustains chronic lead exposures.  All of this forms a rather concerning public health picture for when New York regions begins to open up and physicians learn more about the health of children during the pandemic.

Clearly residents who are stuck at home and dealing with these dangers have much more to worry about than simply contracting COVID-19.

Fortunately, Federal laws as well as New York City, New York State, as well as various counties within the State of New York offer apartment and home residents important legal protections in cases where lead based paint is present.

Finding the Right Lead Poisoning Attorney

At the Frankel Law Firm, we’ve been fighting for the rights of injured persons for more than 40 years. We have keen insight into the complex web of laws related to lead poisoning which involve federal, state and city legislation and regulations. We have been the attorney of record in successful precedent setting lead paint litigation and have recovered millions of dollars in damages for our clients. We focus on each case individually and carefully investigate and thoughtfully prepare our cases for trial or settlement.

If you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out to us today at (212) 888-5100 or at www.Frankellawfirm.com. All plaintiff personal injury cases which are accepted are on a contingency basis which means that there will be no attorneys fee unless successful.

Given the coronavirus pandemic, we can arrange for a free consultation by Facetime, Zoom, Skype or WhatsApp. Please feel free to give us a call.

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