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Lead: problem or panic?

Real Estate Weekly: Good morning. Thank you everyone for coming. My name is Therese Fitzgerald. I'm the editor of Real Estate Weekly. We have called this session because of the growing concern over lead in apartment buildings and the risk it presents to children. We all know Mayor Dinkins has made lead a priority, and legislators on local, state, and federal levels all want to see some type of legislation guaranteeing surveys and/or abatement.

Let's begin on my right, if you could identify yourself and explain your involvement with the lead issue.

Marolyn Davenport. I'm with the Real Estate Board of New York. The Real Estate Board represents nearly 5,000 owners and managers and brokers of real property, both commercial and residential, and I represent the board on the mayor's Lead Paint Advisory Committee.

John Gilbert: John Gilbert, president of the Rent Stabilization Association. We represent 25,000 property owners throughout the five boroughs. The reason I'm involved in lead paint, besides also sitting on the mayor's commission, is that this is a huge issue for property owners. We've been using the statement that if the water meters don't get you, the lead paint will, because what we're talking about is the issue of survival and whether property owners are going to be able to survive. That was a question before the lead paint issue arose. So we're very concerned about the cost elements. We're obviously very concerned about the societal issue of children becoming poisoned, and we want to be involved in solving the problem and coming up with solutions.

Dan Sitomer: My name is Dan Sitomer. I'm an attorney in private practice, a partner at the law firm of Brown & Wood. I am also chair of the Environmental Council of the Association of Builders and Owners of Greater New York, as well as the vice chair of the New York Environmental Committee of the New York Building Congress. I think there is a concern now over viewing the lead issue in a very responsible and responsive way in order to avoid the overreaction that we had with asbestos. I represent many of the major building owners here in New York, as well as many of the major contractors that are in environmental remediation.

Dan Margulies: Dan Margulies, executive director of Community Housing Improvement Program, which represents about 2,500 owners of apartment buildings, and I also serve on the mayor's Lead Paint Advisory Committee. Our interest, John said, is one of survival. Most of my members own buildings in neighborhoods where there have been lead paint problems. Some of them have had lead paint violations. Fortunately, few, if any, have had children with lead poisoning, because despite the headlines and the concern, it' s not that widespread. ' But we're very concerned that the attempt to deal with the number of cases there are, and the increased number that will be diagnosed with the new federal limits, will sweep too broadly and cost too much without providing a commensurate health benefit. We want to address the health needs as directly and cost effectively as we can.

Diana Kiel: My name is Diana Kiel, and I'm the director of Lead Poisoning Prevention Program for the City Health Department, and the focus of our particular program, as I think many of you know, is really to focus on children with lead poisoning. I'll let Marty speak to the environmental section.

Marty Kimmelblatt: My name is Marty Kimmelblatt. I'm the coordinator for the Environmental Investigative Unit of the Lead Poison Prevention Program. We're responsible to go out when there is a lead-poisoned child and determine where the source of the child's problem is, and to remedy that problem.

Nancy Sachs: My name is Nancy Sachs. I'm general counsel at Kay [phonetic] Insurance Associates. Our clients represent building owners all over New York, and we are quite concerned that because of the lead.paint issue, that they will not in the future be able to obtain lead paint coverage under their liability policies. Therefore, we want to make sure that they will, in fact, be able to obtain insurance coverage, and that the number of potential lawsuits which face owners will not be so overwhelming in magnitude in total dollar value that even if the coverage is available, it will not be affordable in the future.

REW: Maybe we could start with some background on the problem. Diana, maybe you could tell us how the city views the problem.

Kiel: I don't have figures in front of me, but I understand there's roughly around 80 percent of the housing in New York City was built before 1960. Those are some figures that we understand we've been working with. As far as children, last year we screened about 350,000 children, and of those we identified about 664 cases of lead poisoning, and that's using the old standard 25 micrograms per deciliter.

Nov. 21, the health code was changed, lowering the reportable level of lead poisoning as 10 and above in the City Health Department, and we will now go out and actually investigate cases of 20 and above. Even though that went into effect the end of November, there is this lag period, this transition period, that really the Health Department is undergoing, because our laboratory is not up and running on all of the equipment that we need, the graphite furnaces that we need to run the smaller blood samples that are being collected.

Part of the transition also is implementing the Center of Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. We're going to be recommending that different types of screening methods be used and smaller amounts of lead be collected, and it's using a fingertip method, collecting it in a tube, and then running just a smaller amount of blood. We're also going for the venous sample in the arm.

What that means is our laboratory itself has to be up to speed to be able to run those samples, and the providers have to know that we have the capability to do it. Some of the providers are actually using private laboratories right now. So, again, there's a lag period between now and when we're going to see an increase in the children that are being screened. Right now it's been about 300,000 last year. There are 500,000, closer to 550,000 children between six months and six years in New York City, and that's based on U.S. census data.

REW: Dan, you touched on the fact that it may not be as widespread as some people think. What does everyone really think? How pervasive is the problem? I know there is Local Law 1, which was supposed to take care of this problem.

Margulies: "Widespread" is one of those terms. Anywhere you're dealing with a health problem, one damaged child is too many, so you have to start from that premise. But the number, as Diana said, of children who are identified as lead-poisoned under the old standard last year in the city was around 650. Because the 300,000-plus tests that they did were in the lead belts and neighborhoods where you're most likely to find it, there were probably a few more, but not proportionately more in the 200,000 or so children who weren't tested. You can expect under the new CDC guidelines, depending upon whose estimate you believe, up to 10 as many children will be considered poisoned, which I guess could bring your totals citywide to 7,000 or 8,000. You should understand that the absolute number under the old standard had been declining because of reduced lead in the environment, reduced lead in gasoline, the fact that it's not used any longer in paint. Once a new baseline is established under the new diagnostic standard, that will decline because of the reduced environmental lead. But those are the gross numbers we're talking about. Again, you have to think in terms of gross numbers. One is too many.

Gilbert: But in terms of the term "widespread," I think it's important to note how much lead is in our environment. CDC estimates 3 million tons of lead paint throughout the United States, 5 million metric tons of lead is in our environment, in our soil, as a result of leaded gasoline. You look at the P.S. 3 situation in Greenwich Village. The highest level of lead was found in an exterior window sill.

So I think if there's any good news in this issue, it is some of the language in Title X that was signed by President Bush in October, which basically, for the first time since '88 - everybody's been talking about: "You find lead, you've got to abate it; you've got to get rid of it" - now what we' re talking about is lead hazards. What we're finally whittling down is the fact, and the acceptance of the fact, that although lead paint may be the biggest source of lead-poisoned children, lead dust is the pathway that gets from the paint into a child's body.

I think that one of the things that has to happen, and I think is occurring, .I don't know if it's happening so much in New York, but it's happening elsewhere, at least on a national level, you've got health care advocates and housing advocates coming together to try to solve the problem, understanding that we just can't have a situation that says if you find lead, full abatement, because what will happen is what happened in Baltimore, where you had widespread abandonment.

What has to happen is an acknowledgement that all of us have lived with lead paint. The fall of Rome was caused by lead poisoning because they weren't using ceramic that was fired properly. So all of us have been exposed to lead paint in our lives. One of the doctors on the mayor's commission was asked the very question, "You've been exposed to lead paint your whole life. How has it impacted you?" And he said, "Well, maybe I'd be teaching at Princeton instead of Mount Sinai."

So what I think is happening is people are acknowledging that what we're looking at is children. And all of us, as children, were exposed to lead. All of our intelligence has been impacted as a result of that. But children who are on borderline intelligence, if they are lead-poisoned, it really could mean the difference between being able to go to a vocational school and land a solid job or not being able to hold down a job because they couldn't receive the proper education.

So I think the good news is that we're focusing in on what the actual problem is. My big concern is that there are a lot of holes in that as we go along. The issue of liability insurance. I mean, the fact that every single major insurance company in the state of New York has at least applied for, if not received, an exemption, an exclusion from their liability policies, and those that haven't certainly are contemplating doing that.

So the issue really has to be identifying the problem areas, going after those problem areas, going after those problem apartments, and doing whatever we can to solve that problem in a cost-effective way that, as Dan said, doesn't give us this overreaction like we had with asbestos. Because let's understand. Asbestos basically was in our boiler rooms. Lead paint is in our bedrooms. It's a totally different situation in terms of the magnitude of where it exists in buildings.

Davenport: I think John touched on a very important concept here, which is that of hazard reduction. What we are seeing is a legislative push certainly on the national level. I think that when the effects of large exposures to asbestos became known, there was a sudden rush, both in terms of regulations and legislation and in the marketplace, to take it all out, regardless of the condition, regardless of where it was. Lenders were saying you had to take it out. There was no insurance for that either.

I think one of the most important things here, because we're talking about the housing stock of New York City, which is an older housing stock, and affordable housing stock in particular of New York City, I think that we all agree that the approach has to be a very reasoned approach and the hazards have to be reduced where they are the greatest. That has to be the top priority. Public policy-makers get sidetracked towards a goal of eliminating it all tomorrow. It's not going to help the children who are at risk.

Margulies: I think a very important point about going too far out of ignorance can be made through an analysis of what happened under the existing Local Law 1, which required lead paint to be abated by scraping, sealing, and painting, very simply. The dry scraping of areas of peeling paint probably created more of the lead dust which poisoned children than would have been caused by wet scraping or a full paint job of the apartment where the tenants weren't present, but dry scraping with the tenants present probably resulted in greater lead contamination as people followed the dierates of Local Law 1 than would have occurred otherwise in many apartments.

So it's easy to say, "Well, it's terrible to get rid of it." That's what we said 10 years ago when we passed Local Law 1. But we didn't know how to get rid of it. So we may have caused more harm than good. I should clarify that most lead paint removed under Local Law 1 is not in the homes of lead-poisoned children, but merely where they presume there to be lead paint, because there was some peeling paint in an older building. It's another problem in our law--we don't distinguish between lead paint that really appears to be creating a problem or is immediately likely to create a problem, and any paint on any wall in a generally well-maintained apartment where the odds are that the child will not be lead-poisoned.

Sitomer: I think that it's important to set a structure in dealing with this issue. I think it's important to develop a public/private partnership which is starting at least on the information side. It's also important to understand that whenever you talk about environmental issues, you talk about management of those issues. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from the asbestos scares of the early 80's, which were, first of all, we've got to understand that the industry that deals with remediation has to be structured in such a way as to promote an integrity in that industry. There has to be a new federal law that covers some of this in developing training and education programs. I think clearly that training is very important -- the certification of contractors. Today there are a lot of competent contractors removing asbestos, and there still are some that aren't. I think that, for instance, in the licensing today in New York State, at least you're setting some standard, but clearly other states have more restrictions and tougher licensing requirements.

I think there has to be, finally, an understanding that this is going to be an incredible cost to building owners, and that building owners can't, and shouldn't, be allowed to suffer solely that responsibility. I think in that regard, we must start addressing support, financial support, for building owners in dealing with it. That's something that clearly, I think, was government's absolute failure in understanding the impact of asbestos on building owners. That cannot be allowed to happen.

PEW: But with asbestos, we found out later that in-place management was the better way to go. Is there such a thing in lead as in-place management?

Sitomer: Yes, there absolutely is. That goes to something John was saying earlier, and Marolyn too, that you can't look at this time in the beginning of this industry and these issues to wholesale removal of lead. That's really not going to be possible. The costs are staggering -- in the billions of dollars. There's no way that any private industry is going to be able to support that. I think the reality is that you'd have to talk about management the same way as I said before that you do with any other environmental problem and develop priorities and develop an understanding and sensitivity to what the real issues are, not the perceived issues, not the mediaraised issues, 'but what are the real health and safety issues, and how we, as a public/private partnership working together, resolve those with government's understanding that there's a cost involved. There must be government support. It's not only financial support. There has to be a support in enforce-develop as we see them

One of the big problems that continues today with asbestos is that there has been a terrible burden placed on building owners and contractors in the way the regulations are policed and enforced. There has to be a sensitivity to that as we develop this new industry. And make no mistake. This is going to be a major new industry. It's going to follow the asbestos abatement industry. You're going to have issues relating to every part of that industry, whether it's the contractors, the consultants that identify the material, or it's the transporters that transport it, or the landfills that ultimately take the material, or the transfer stations where the materials are transferred.

There has to be an understanding on both sides -- government and private industry -- as to how we are together going to deal with this. The strengths of the industry is involved. The weaknesses of the industry is involved. How it is going to be paid for? Because there is no strong economy, as there might have been in the 80's, that's going to support the cost of abatement. doesn't exist in this economy.

Gilbert: That is exactly the Baltimore situation that you had. Whether it's a $10,000 abatement or a $15,000 abatement, and you have properties in New York where the value of the unit is not even worth that much for the amount of money that it would cost to abate the situation. To underscore what Dan said, even if you had full-scale abatement today, there are currently no standards set forth by federal EPA to. deal with the disposal of this hazardous material once you pulled out of an apartment. There aren't standards. Nobody knows what the rules are. I think what we've really got to do is to shift this issue around, turn it upside down on its head, and really ask the question: What can every single individual do? If the solution is to put it totally on the property owners, that's not an acceptable situation.

What we have to do is to understand that parents play a role here. I tell this story all the time, and it may not be politically correct, but that's tough luck. When I was a kid, one of my biggest memories was my Norwegian grandmother. She used to just drive it into my head, "Clean your fingernails. Clean your hands before you eat. Get out of that dirt. Before you come into my house, you take off your shoes." And, you know, the term "cleanliness is next to godliness?' Within this issue, it is so close to being accurate, right on the money, that it's mind-boggling. We have to understand that dust within our homes is dangerous and can potentially create problems in children that cannot be reversed. We have to understand that. We have to understand.

Parents have to be educated as to the importance of nutrition. The reason why lead is a problem with children is that when it's ingested, the body thinks it's calcium. Therefore, it is absorbed into the child's system as if it was that very needed calcium which is used to make our bones. If you have a child that is deficient in calcium and' deficient in iron, that lead will be absorbed like that, and it's very, very important for us to understand that these issues are very much linked in terms of the degree of poisoning the children have.

'Education Critical'

I think it really comes down to education. It's not just .health care providers and housing folks that' are involved. Churches, synagogues, the schools -- we have to use the children, our children, as the messengers to go back to the parents and to educate the parents. And kids love to do that. They love to tell the parents when they think they're wrong. They love to tell their parents when they think they should be doing something differently. We have to use that dynamic.

Dan mentioned certification and licensing. This, I think, is the biggest hole in the whole issue, other than the liability. The question, from a property owner standpoint, is: Does a normal paint job become a toxic project? Does the normal scraping and sanding that occurs whenever you paint an apartment, does that mean guys walking around with moon suits on and scaring the hell out of everybody else in the building? There are incredibly important questions that need to be answered, and EPA really is nowhere on it at this point. There are only one or two states that have any type of training and certification program. A lot of other states are waiting for EPA to come out with the standards; they don't exist. Those standards have to understand and take into consideration that in the city of New York, you've got to paint an apartment every three years -- at least every three years. If you're going to add to the cost of a basic paint job, are you going to be able to get liability insurance? Is the painting contractor going to be able to get liability insurance? At this point the answer is no.

To me, you combine the inability of getting liability insurance with the lack of understanding of what the costs are for painting and abatement, and if I'm an investor and I'm looking to buy rental housing in the city of New York, those two issues alone -- forget about water meters, forget about all the other issues that property owners face -- that creates enough uncertainty that I'm going to say, "I'm going to put my money elsewhere."

If that happens - and it is happening - if we allow it to continue to happen, then what will occur, and what is existing right now, is a huge disintegration of this city's tax base, which is going to prevent the Health Department from having the money to do what they have to do, because you're going to be competing against putting cops on the streets or firemen in the fire houses, and you're going to end up third on that list of three.

Sitomer: I think that one of the tools that has been consistently overlooked in addressing some of these environmental problems, and certainly was with asbestos - and I think there was some reason for that -- are the contractors in this business. I'm also general counsel for the Environmental Information Association, which was the National Asbestos Council, and there are some extremely knowledgeable contractors in abatement and now in lead abatement. I think they have to be brought in and made part of the process. I think the Health Department needs to understand the contractor issues. I think all of the regulators need to understand it. I think building owners can rely on some of the information from the lessons learned by the contractors in the abatement business.

Clearly there's been a consistent problem, certainly with the beginning of the asbestos laws locally, where you had contractors that were not qualified. There still are contractors who are not qualified, and won't be qualified, to remove lead when lead may be required to be removed. But I think that there are certainly at this point a sufficient number of qualified contractors with some very talented people that they should be brought into this loop and should be made a part of the process. There's a mutuality of interest that has to be addressed, and it has to be addressed by all of the players that are going to be impacted and involved in this process.

I think we see some change on the national level with the Residential Lead-based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992, which President Bush signed in October, and I think you're going to see the training programs, the requirements specifically under that to implement a process and a program certainly of certification, allowing funding for states and cities to offer certification programs.

Sachs: Although the federal statement of the government has begun to address the issues of eliminating or reducing the hazards of lead, what they haven't yet addressed is the liability issues. That poses a potentially devastating problem for property owners. Specifically, there have been multiple factors particularly over the past year that have increased the likelihood of a landowner facing lawsuit.

Number one, in October 1991, the CDC reduced the level of lead at which you are considered lead-poisoned from 25 to 10 micrograms per deciliter. That's number one. Number two, back in September, the agency which regulates Medicaid issued a directive indicating that all children on Medicaid under the age of six have to be tested. So there will be, of course, a greater pool of children who are now being tested. Number three, there has been much greater publicity over the past year abut the hazards of lead poisoning. Therefore, what was an explosion of asbestos litigation in the 80's portends to be a litigation explosion in the lead paint area in the 90's. So there are multiple factors that have increased the likelihood of liability being imposed. That is why the insurance companies, of course, are taking a second look, or a first look, at whether or not they want to write this type of insurance. If a landowner cannot obtain insurance, then, of course, he's more likely either not to buy the building, abandon the building or not take the steps necessary to correct the problem; so go bare, without insurance, and they won't address the issue.

So the liability issues are, again, issues which I do not feel have really been addressed on any level of government to date. There are health issues which are being addressed, but until the legal liability issues are addressed, the whole problem will not be resolved.

Davenport: You're absolutely right. The federal government hasn't touched this issue, despite volumes of proposed (and some passed) legislation. But one jurisdiction that has done something on the issue of liability has been Rhode Island, which set up a residential lead paint program, which, as I recall, included licensing of contractors, inspection, and a specific protocol for reducing hazards. And, in combination with that, provides limits on liability if they follow the law. I think that this concept of setting up a program which, if an owner then follows what is mandated, both legislatively and in the regulatory program in terms of who should do the work and obtaining contractors who have the proper training and qualifications doing whatever testing is required, taking whatever hazard reduction steps are necessary based on the findings of the survey and inspection, then by limiting that owner's liability, there would be an enormous incentive to do the work that was required. I think that it is absolutely necessary to prevent the kind of disinvestment that I think we're all very much afraid will come about as a result of this issue.

Lois Weiss for REW: I'd be interested in hearing from the Health Department people as to what you're finding among the children in the city. I'm very concerned - and I know some of the other members of the panel are -- about just the general levels of lead within the entire city--the soil, the playgrounds, the streets. Are you considering other sources of lead risk to children or just blaming it all on apartments.

Kimmelblatt: We in the Lead Poison Prevention Program deal with children with lead poisoning, so we see a small portion of what goes on in our city, but it's probably somewhat representative. The type of testing that we do is primarily XRF testing and some testing of the water supply. That's routine testing on all the dwellings.

Weiss for REW: In an apartment? In other words, when you find a child who has a high level of lead in their blood, then you first go into the apartment?

Kimmelblatt: That's correct. We respond after a child is lead-poisoned. This is in the environmental. The predominance of the testing, again, is XRF testing and water sampling. We do sample for other sources when a situation indicates it should be. We do take dust samples. We're getting more into the dust sampling business. We also take samples of toys, ceramics, anything that might be indicative of a child's lead poison source. In the sampling, which is limited, we do see other sources, but they are somewhat limited. The lead in the dust, the numbers that we go by are the numbers set up by HUD, which are levels that are somewhat arbitrary, and it's a clearance level. That's really all we have to work with. Hopefully we'll have better tools and' better ways of dealing with what is dangerous and what is not dangerous. But we're dealing with what we have available to us, and we do find elevated lead in the dust where we do sampling.

As John mentioned, the window wells are the areas that we do find the highest lead levels, and that's predominantly because of the frictionable lead that is removed when the window is opened and closed. But we also find lead dust on the floors and other parts of residences. I can't tell you what proportion of this dust is attributable to a child's lead level; that I have no way of knowing. But because usually in the same dwelling we also find a lot of surfaces that are highly leader, as well.

Weiss for REW: Are you talking about apartment surfaces or the people's tables and things like that?

Kimmelblatt: No. Walls, windows, door, etc. And water is not too much of a problem, although we do find some lead in water, but its' not a major problem that I've been finding.

Weiss for REW: You're not tracking that child out to their playground or their school to see if they're being exposed there?

Kimmelblatt: We'll go to other dwellings. We'll go to a playground, if necessary, day care centers, any place else a child may spend time. We're doing more of it now than we have in the past, but I don't have any numbers that can tell you if that is a specific source that's directed to the child's elevated lead level.

Margulies:

The issue of liability can't be understated. What happened in Baltimore, where owners found themselves with abatement orders, was that the papers arrived in the same day's mail as the violation. The lawyers were hanging out down at the Health Department, and they were sometimes beating the Health Department to the landlords' door, the result of which is the owner of the typical three-decker apartment house in Baltimore set up each building as a corporation, and the day the papers arrived, they abandoned the building.

There is a difference between what is done in Baltimore and Massachusetts and has been done in the past in New York. We are unique, even though our laws on abatement are not as rigid as theirs. We write lead paint violations for peeling paint where children are not yet poisoned. We have a preventive program. We have had since Local Law 1 was eddopted. Nobody else does that. Everybody else writes violations starting with a blood test finding a poisoned child, where they know they've got a problem. We have been proud of the fact that we have a preventive program, and we're a leader, but, again, when you're acting without a great deal of knowledge of source and abatement techniques, being the leader in this area may be unwise. k's certainly not something you rush into a broad program on.

The other issue on liability which owners have to be aware of, regardless of what laws are passed, is that lawsuits follow laws. They become fads. And the recent decisions have indicated that you can have a. liability for a tenant who was in your building 15 or 20 years ago, because the statute of limitations doesn't expire until three years after majority, the result of which is don't throw out your old insurance policies. Make sure you know who your carrier was in 1972, because you could be sued today for a tenant you had then in a building you no longer own.

Gilbert: And pray that your carrier is still in business that covered you back in 1972. Dan mentioned Local Law 1. I think it's important for everybody to understand that Local Law 1, for all intents and purposes, doesn't exist anymore, because what we have is a judge who has ruled that, in fact, Local Law 1-or at least the city's administration of Local Law 1-as we all know it, the presumption of lead in a pre-'60 building, peeling paint, now the judge has ruled that it doesn't matter whether it's peeling paint. If you do find lead in an apartment, you've got to abate it. The terms 'remove' or 'cover' did not just relate to peeling paint, but relate to any lead paint in any apartment. So what has to happen is that we have to change the law. The debate right now in the mayor's commission and within the City Council is around what the changes should encompass. I can only hope that some of the good will and the common sense that's occurring at the national level will filter down to New York City. I have not seen it yet. At this point you've got two camps, and one is saying, 'it's got to be full abatement or nothing,. and the other camp is saying, "If it's full abatement, we're out of business.. There really hasn't been...

Sachs: What is the division in the city council on that proposed law by Dinkins? I know it's a three-tier system whereby there's low, medium, and high risk lead hazards. Any chance that's going to pass? It seems like such a rational solution.

Gilbert: The problem with that is that none of that language really exists within the bill. What the bill basically says, from HPD standpoint, is we're going to repeal Local Law 1 and trust us, because this is the pilot program that we want to initiate. When you look at the pilot program, it basically fits within all of the state-of-the-art attempts to get empirical data -- to go after the highest risks, to go after hazards. So it's a solid program. But 1 think the fear, from the council's standpoint, of doing a bill at this time when there's more hysteria than understanding out there, where we've got P.S. 3, where we've got the Williamsburg bridge, we've got schools throughout the city with incredible peeling paint, much worst situations than we had at P.S. 3 in Greenwich Village, that we're kind of frozen in fear of doing something that will hurt them in an election year. What has to happen is, again, we've all got to get in there and we've got to talk about the facts and talk about the ramifications of doing something a la asbestos. which will really hurt the tax base of the city of New York. and at the same time acknowledging that there's children out there at risk and that we've got to do something to go after that problem as well.

Weiss for REW: How risky is it to grown people in an office building with windows going up and down?

Margulies: There are no studies on this stuff. That's one of the really shocking things. As a real estate person attending these committee meetings with health professionals, with scientists, with public administrators who supposedly have spent time on the issues, the science on this is really negligible. There are studies that show that children are harmed. There are no studies of ambient levels of lead in our community' or any other community, particularly, or its effects. There are no studies of worker safety in the painting profession to determine if there's been lead hazards. There is not real good scientific work showing whether lead paint with different levels of lead in it makes a significant difference to the lead dust levels. There really is just a dearth of good research on this stuff. If it weren't so serious, it would be embarrassing. As it is, it's just frightening.

Kiel: I think it's important to keep in mind that there are occupational hazards and there has been, actually, some research that's been done, but it's mainly in the industries where you would expect to find lead -- smelting and batteries and things like that. Other than that, it really has been more anecdotal, especially when it comes to contractors and workers and painters.

Margulies: The same thing with asbestos, where we rushed into it when no one had ever contracted asbestosis from a boiler room as a janitor. The only people in the industry in asbestos-related industries were affected. And we went nationwide with this scare, and we're really doing the same thing with lead. We haven't done the work.

Kiel: It's important to realize that the reason why the focus is on children', instead of adults is that children have the highest risk, and a lot of it has to do with behavioral problems and the development that children are* going through at these very early ageS. Here we're talking about primarily six months to three years is the highest risk, and it's really around that one, one and a half year range that you see the hand to mouth. A young child like that, they aren't going to understand. How can you explain to an infant? An infant always has their hands in their mouth.
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Title Annotation:Review & Forecast, Section II; round-table discussion featuring real estate and health professionals discussing lead poisoning issue as related to New York, New York real estate industry
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Jan 27, 1993
Words:6412
Previous Article:Absorption outstripping added space.
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