Exposure to lead can have serious health consequences. When absorbed into the body, lead can damage the brain and nervous system. Exposure to lead has been linked to learning and behavior problems, slow growth and development, and hearing and speech problems. Children under 6 are especially vulnerable. Maryland and Baltimore City have laws and regulations designed to reduce lead exposure. Each year the Maryland Department of the Environment publishes a report with information about lead testing in children. This article describes Baltimore City's lead paint removal regulations. Other articles on this site provide information for landlords/owners and tenants/buyers.
Lead paint removal regulations
- Violation Notice and Order to Abate Lead Hazards
- Abatement Work Procedures
- Prohibited Methods of Abatement
- Lead in Soil
- Clean Up
- Persons and Pets Prohibited During Abatement
- Disposal of Abatement Waste
- Clearance Inspections
- Penalties and Fines
When a child is identified as having an elevated blood lead (EBL) level, the Health Commissioner must request that the Health Department conduct an environmental investigation. The environmental investigation must be of the child's current residence. The investigation may include any other residences the child stayed in during the year prior to the test. (Section 2-101(a)).
If the child's residence is part of a multi-family dwelling, then all units, common areas and the premises of the multi-family dwelling may be inspected for lead hazards (Section 2-101(b)).
Violation Notice and Order to Abate Lead Hazards
If the investigation finds lead hazards, the Commissioner must issue a "Violation Notice & Order to Abate Lead Hazards" to the owner notifying them of the existence of lead hazards and ordering the abatement of hazards within 30 days (Section 3-101(a)). Abatement means removing the lead hazard.
Every owner and operator of any property is obligated to comply with all notices and orders issued by the Commissioner to abate lead hazards (Section 3-101(b)).
Violation notices must be served on the owner or operator (Section 3-101(d)).
Abatement Work Procedures
The minimum mandatory standards of abatement work are as follows (Section 4-101(a)):
- Posting a sign on dwelling under abatement.
- Caution signs must be 20-inches by 14-inches and posted immediately inside the entrances and exits. The sign must be conspicuously placed and must inform persons entering or exiting the property that an abatement of a lead hazard violation will be or is being performed.
- Except in emergency situations, signs must be posted at least three days in advance of starting the abatement project.
- Signs must remain posted until the Health Department issues a written notice to the person responsible for compliance.
- If the surface requiring abatement violates City building codes, the code violation must be fixed before the abatement work occurs. Examples of such code violations include plumbing leaks that affect painted or plastered surfaces, or structural defects that cause plaster to crack or break.
- Work must be done in progression through the dwelling beginning with the area farthest from the entrance. In a multi-story dwelling or secondary residence, work must begin on the uppermost floor in the area farthest from the stairway.
- Furnishings, including wall-to-wall carpeting, must be removed from each room or area as it is prepared for abatement. Those furnishings that cannot be moved (e.g., built-in furniture) must be covered with plastic at least 6 mils. thick and sealed with tape. Furnishings should be thoroughly cleaned to remove lead dust before returning them to a room that has undergone abatement.
- Each area that is to be abated must be sealed with plastic at least 6 mils. thick and taped prior to abatement in order to contain the lead dust and abatement residue.
- All cabinets, closets and drawers must be sealed with tape so as to prevent contamination by lead dust.
- In the case of a rental property, the tenant is responsible for the removal of all food items from any place where the abatement work will take place.
- The entire floor of the work area must be covered with plastic at least 6 mils. thick, and all seams and edges must be secured with tape or staples.
Prohibited Methods of Abatement
Persons performing abatement of lead-containing substances may not use the following methods:
- open flame burning
- dry sanding
- open abrasive blasting
- uncontained hydro-blasting
- methylene chloride for interior use (except that methylene chloride may be used in interior work areas for localized touch-up)
- dry scraping
- heat gun operating at or above 1,100°F (Section 4-102(a)).
A person performing abatement of lead-containing substances must only use the following methods:
- replacement with a part free of lead-containing substances
- removal of lead based paint using an approved removal method
- reversal of component parts
- encapsulation of the surface
- NOTE: Not all of these options are permitted or suitable for all surfaces. Please see Section 4-103 through 4-106 for specific surface abatement method (Section 4-102(b)).
Lead in Soil
If the soil is tested and found to contain lead the owner must (Section 4-107(a)):
- Enclose soil with cement or grass, or sod to eliminate bare soil exposure to children, or
- Remove 6 inches of topsoil from the contaminated area, place water-permeable textile fabric over the exposed subsurface, and cover fabric with 8 inches of clean soil and ground cover.
- Keep children and animals out of contaminated soil.
- Not grow vegetables in contaminated soil.
At the end of each workday, rooms or areas in which abatement is incomplete must be thoroughly cleaned or properly sealed (Section 4-108(a)). Before unsealing each room or area, it should be thoroughly cleaned, surfaces re-coated, and then cleaned again. Once a room or area has received clean-up, it should not be reentered by workmen (Section 4-108(b)).
At a minimum, the first clean-up should consist of a thorough High Efficiency Particle Accumulator (HEPA) vacuuming of all surfaces, including woodwork and wood trim, ceilings, windows and window wells, and floors, followed by a high phosphate wash and a second HEPA vacuuming. After repainting or coating walls, woodwork and wood trim, ceilings, windows, and floors the clean-up process should be repeated. (Section 4-108(c)). In the absence of a HEPA vacuum, two thorough wet washings with a high phosphate wash, with frequent changes of water, each followed by a wet vacuuming while surfaces are still wet followed by two additional such treatments after repainting or coating will be considered satisfactory (Section 4-108(d)). Use of an ordinary household vacuum for clean-up of abatement debris is prohibited and sweeping should be limited to preliminary cleanings only (Section 4-108(e)). All sponges, rags, mop heads and other materials used in dean-up must be properly disposed of along with other abatement debris (Section 4-108(f)).
Persons and Pets Prohibited During Abatement
Persons and pets may not enter or remain in the work area at any time during the abatement process. The Commissioner determines whether the abatement has been completed in a satisfactory manner. (Section 5-101(b)).
In the case of rental properties, the owner must immediately secure a temporary lead-safe residence for the tenants and pay all relocation expenses for the tenants. Tenants must not return to the residence until the abatement has been completed (Section 5-101(c)). An owner may not retaliate against a tenant in response to being issued a "Violation Notice and Order to Abate," a "Notice of Elevated Blood Lead Level," or a "Notice of Defect (Section 5-101(d)).
Disposal of Abatement Waste
Disposal of waste generated in the course of the abatement process must be in compliance with Hazardous Waste Small Quantity Generators regulations as required by the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR).
Lead waste subject to COMAR must be removed from the site within 7 days after completing the abatement. Lead waste not subject to COMAR must be removed from the site within 24 hours after completing the abatement (Section 5-103(a)). Lead abatement waste must be transported and disposed of in a manner to prevent lead from becoming airborne (Section 5-103(b)).
No lead waste may be disposed of through regular residential or commercial trash collection (Section 5-103(d)).
The Commissioner must perform a clearance inspection to determine if the abatement has been completed properly (Section 6-101(a)). In the case of rental property, no clearance inspection may be conducted unless the owner of that property has registered with the Maryland Department of the Environment ("MDE") Lead Poisoning Prevention Program and provided the Department with verification of such registration (Section 6-101(c)).
Penalties and Fines
Violations of this regulation are subject to civil and criminal penalties found in the Health Code and the Building, Fire, and Related Codes of Baltimore City (Section 8-101).