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Cleveland father supports tougher lead legislation for public housing after son died in 2007

CLE father supports tougher lead legislation for public housing
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CLEVELAND — Darrick Wade of Cleveland is in full support of the Lead Safe Housing for Kids Act just proposed by Congress, a measure that would attempt to better identify and deal with lead paint poisoning risk at federally supported housing nationwide.

Wade, who lost his son Demetrius to the effects of lead poisoning in 2007, told News 5 the measure needs to become law the better monitor the lead poisoning issue and increase lead-safe requirements for public housing authorities, and property owners receiving federal assistance.

“The symptoms of lead poisoning started to effect my son at about one-and-a-half years of age," Wade said. “And the illnesses continued to ravage his body. And it concerned me even more about the children who are affected by lead poisoning.”

“When it comes to the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority there must be a more comprehensive inspection of the units. A visual inspection deals only with what you can see in the units.”

The Lead Safe Housing for Kids Act proposed by Representatives A. Donald McEachin (VA-04), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), and Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04) on March 23 also calls for:

  • Requiring the use of risk assessments, a more accurate evaluation tool to identify lead hazards before a family moves into the home;
  • Requiring landlords to disclose and control lead hazards if found in the home, as well as providing notice to tenants about their rights under the Fair Housing Act; 
  • Providing a process for families to relocate on an emergency basis, without penalty or the loss of assistance, if a lead hazard is identified in the home and the landlord fails to control the hazard within 30 days of being notified of the presence of lead; and
  • Creating a lead-based paint hazard demonstration project that provides funding for remediation of lead-based paint hazards in identified homes. This demonstration project would be funded at $50 million each fiscal year (FY2023 through FY2027)

News 5 spoke with CMHA Chief of Staff Jeffrey Wade about the Lead Safe Housing for Kids Act. Wade said his staff is taking a close look at what the measure could mean for his agency's ongoing efforts to protect children at all CMHA housing units. Wade said he'll reserve any further comment on the proposed measure until it's determined if it will pass.

Yvonka Hall, President of Cleveland Lead Advocates for Safe Housing or CLASH, hopes the measure will become law in 2022.

“This is very pivotal to us here in Cleveland with the amount of federally assisted housing that we have," Hall said. “It will require the use of risk assessments, a more accurate tool to identify lead hazards.”

“Also protecting the families that are currently there, because it would also require them to actually go back now and do inspections of those units to make sure those units are safe. This has an opportunity for us to save so many children and families from the headache brought on from the impact of lead poisoning."

"But we also want daycares to also be lead safe, so that would be that next stop on the train to equity for our communities. We can either pay now or pay later, but we’re going to pay if we do nothing, and so for us, it is imperative that we do everything that we can to protect our children.”

“We need to do more because there are generations and decades and decades of paint that is still contaminating the children with lead.”

RELATED: Cleveland lead inspector training vital in slowing child lead poisoning