Pittsburgh City Council on Tuesday adopted a lead safety ordinance that aims to prevent potential lead exposure for city residents, and children in particular.
The ordinance is one step in a larger effort to reduce the number of lead poisoning cases in Pittsburgh, said Councilwoman Erika Strassburger, who introduced the legislation in October.
From 2015 through 2019, 849 children in the city were confirmed to have lead poisoning, representing about 39% of all new cases in Allegheny County.
“One child with elevated lead levels in their body is one too many,” Strassburger said. “The passage of this important bill, the Pittsburgh Lead Safety Law, moves us closer to protecting all of Pittsburgh’s children and residents from lead poisoning.”
Even small amounts of lead in the blood can be harmful, especially for children, according to the ordinance. Symptoms of lead poisoning in children include impaired memory, decreased academic performance and behavioral disorders. In adults, lead poisoning can lead to cardiovascular disease, adverse neurological effects, renal damage, thyroid hormone alterations and decreased fertility.
The ordinance also pointed to irreversible effects like permanent neurological and physiological damage in both kids and adults.
“This is one of the most important bills we’ve done this year, if not in the last five years,” said Councilman Bobby Wilson, who co-sponsored the bill with Strassburger, and council members Corey O’Connor and Deb Gross.
The law aims to tackle the most common ways people are exposed to lead, focusing particularly on lead paint, which wasn’t banned until 1978.
The measure calls for routine inspections of rental homes built before lead paint was outlawed in 1978. If lead is found during an inspection, it must be remedied and the residence reinspected. About 80% of the city’s 70,000 rental units predate the ban on lead paint, according to Wilson.
The legislation will create a registry of child care facilities, which also will be required to be inspected for lead.
Renters and property owners can also request lead inspections.
The city has allocated $2 million in federal American Rescue Plan funding to pay for inspections and other elements of the bill, Strassburger said.
The ordinance also calls for all demolitions to have permits that require a lead-safe work plan. Demolition sites would be inspected.