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Legislators, Attorney General Neronha announce package of bills to end lead poisoning in Rhode Island
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Legislative leaders, alongside Attorney General Peter F. Neronha, announced yesterday a package of bills aimed at drastically reducing childhood lead poisoning in Rhode Island. The three proposed bills mark a crucial step in eradicating childhood lead poisoning by ensuring compliance with existing laws.
– These bills, sponsored by Senate Committee on Judiciary Chairwoman Dawn Euer and House Deputy Majority Whip Mia Ackerman, would establish a statewide rental registry where landlords who own non-exempt buildings that were built before 1978 would be required to file lead conformance certificates already required by law.
– These bills, sponsored by Sen. Tiara Mack and Rep. David Morales, would allow tenants to pay their rent into an escrow account when there are unaddressed lead hazards in their homes. The legislation would ensure that tenants remain current on their rent obligations, and that landlords won’t be able to access the funds until they address the lead hazards.
– These bills, sponsored by Sen. Valarie J. Lawson and Rep. Rep. Matthew S. Dawson would allow families affected by childhood lead poisoning to recover up to three times their actual damages (known as treble damages), which would create another mechanism to encourage compliance with existing law.
“Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our children,” said House Deputy Majority Leader Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln). “This bill will better enable us to ensure they are living in a lead-free environment.”
“Anyone selling a product has a responsibility to ensure that product is safe and will not harm the health of children,” said Chairwoman Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown). “Landlords are no different. This bill will help ensure renters that their home is compliant with lead safety laws.”
“Regardless of one's socioeconomic status, all renters across our state deserve to live in a safe home that is free of lead hazards,” said Representative Morales. “Yet we continue to see headline after headline about young children in our communities who have been exposed and poisoned by lead found in their home due to the negligence of the landlord. This is why it is so important that we develop and enforce accountability standards that allow tenants to redirect their rent payments away from their landlord until the necessary repairs have been completed. Only then, will we have lead-free homes that prioritize the health of renters.”
“Everyone deserves safe, quality housing and that includes having the ability to drink lead-free water. If property owners choose not to remedy these dangerous lead poisoning situations, they should not have access to a renter’s money until the lead problem is resolved. This is a reasonable solution to a very serious issue that has been allowed to happen in Providence and Rhode Island for too long,” said Senator Mack.
“Lead poisoning is a serious problem that is still affecting far too many residents in the state and if landlords are willfully neglecting necessary lead mitigation practices, they should be held accountable for putting their tenants at risk. This bill will allow renters to seek the restitution they deserve if they are exposed to the dangers of lead by neglectful property owners,” said Representative Dawson.
“If a company fails to follow proper regulations and someone is poisoned or injured, that company can be held accountable in court,” said Senator Lawson. “If an irresponsible landlord poisons a child with lead, they should be held to the same standards.”
“Lead poisoning is absolutely preventable and our office will take any necessary action to strengthen the enforcement of our laws, and reduce lead exposure within our communities,” said Attorney General Neronha. “Taken collectively, these bills will over time increase the number of safe and affordable housing units and establish stiffer penalties for those who refuse to play by the rules. This is a solvable crisis, but only if we address this problem directly and forcefully. I know Rhode Island can do better by our residents, especially our children, and I look forward to advocating for stronger legal tools and more resources for lead-poisoning prevention.”
“Every family in Rhode Island deserves help to keep their kids safe from lead, whether it is due to old house paint, soil, water, or consumer products,” said Laura Brion, executive director of the Childhood Lead Action Project. “And right now, Rhode Island's laws are leaving too many families in rental housing without all the help they need. This legislation strengthens protections for some of the most at-risk families in the state, moving us closer to a place where safe, affordable housing is a right and not a privilege.”
“Every year, hundreds of Rhode Island children are lead poisoned, an issue that impacts every community in Rhode Island,” said Jennifer Wood, executive director for the R.I. Center for Justice. “The effects of lead poisoning are long lasting, and devastating. Increased blood lead levels are linked to developmental delays, aggressive behavior and school suspensions, all while worsening inequities in our education, health care and criminal justice systems. By enacting these three bills, Rhode Island will increase the stock of safe, sanitary and affordable housing while ameliorating the disastrous moral, economic and social impacts of childhood lead poisoning.”
For more information, contact:
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
Lt. Governor's Office
Secretary of State
Link to Public Records Request