This month, the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute of Politics released its report and recommendations on safety rules for demolitions minimizing childhood lead exposure. Allies for Children’s Executive Director Patrick Dowd and Health Policy Coordinator Laura Stephany participated in the workgroup that presented the recommendations. The group included elected officials, representatives of councils of government, housing and public health agencies, and environmental organizations.
Unsafe demolition has been linked to increased lead exposure in children. With 76% of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s housing stock built prior to the 1978 ban on lead in residential paint, demolishing aging structures can contribute to lead-contaminated soil. Children can be exposed to lead when playing outside, or by soil tracked into homes contaminating house dust. There is no safe lead level in children, and lead exposure can diminish children’s health outcomes, impair cognitive function, and lead to behavior problems. To make Allegheny County a safer place to live and raise children, Allies for Children is working to advance policies that promote primary prevention of childhood lead poisoning, supporting the overall goal of children’s health and learning.
The IOP workgroup studied best practices from around the country relating to lead-safe demolition. Its report highlights models to adapt for application to Western Pennsylvania, emphasizing that wetting down a structure before and during demolition minimizes the spread of lead dust. The report also discusses potential funding streams for demolition projects. In addition to the federal, state and county sources administered by Allegheny County, the report calls attention to Act 152, a local and optional $15 deed and mortgage recording fee that would create a fund for demolishing blighted property. Allegheny County has not yet adopted Act 152, but discussions are occuring.
For additional information, please see the Post-Gazette’s coverage of the report and recommendations.