Black Millennials 4 Flint Continues the Fight for a Lead Free Baltimore

Oct 26, 2020 | BM4F Spotlights, Events, Uncategorized, Young, Gifted & Green Blog Series | 0 comments

Aleah Holt | BM4F Lead Prevention Ambassador Program Alum

Charm City, known as Baltimore to most, has now become another unfortunate example of an American city battling decades of lead poisoning. Much like other major cities, Baltimore, a predominantly Black city was developed in the early 20th century through intentional housing discriminatory policies. [ie. redlining, restrictive covenants, predatory loans] The effects of these policies are still felt today among Baltimore’s low-income minority neighborhoods, which continue to bear the brunt of most environmental injustices.

A 2018 study conducted by the Maryland Department of the Environment showed that 4.5% of Baltimore children had elevated blood lead levels compared to an overall rate of 1.2% in the state. In 2018, Black Millennials 4 Flint hosted a Day of Action for International Lead Prevention Week where they observed this study first hand. (See: BET Finding Justice) The day included canvassing homes listed in violation, educating Baltimore residents about their rights to Lead Free Housing and a seminar featuring some of Baltimore’s most powerful leaders fighting for a #LeadFreeBaltimore. At the time of this event, the city published an official report citing 296 lead paint violations between 2006-2019. BM4F collected the below data from their canvassing. The assumption today is that these homes are in the same condition since the canvass.

BM4F Canvass PlanVacant Properties(out of 65 total)Left Materials with resident/In mailbox(out of 65 total)Warning signs visible(out of 65 total)
65 Properties38 Properties13 Properties2 Properties

Recommendations for Remediation

Based on these findings, BM4F has developed the following recommendations for the city of Baltimore to continue its efforts to eradicate lead. Although we are focused on city efforts, we must acknowledge that these actions must include equitable participation among all stakeholders. This may include but is not limited to residents, all branches of government, service utilities, private corporations and contractors. Furthermore, as we approach the mayoral and (presidential) elections in November, it is imperative for elected officials to address lead exposure as well as aging infrastructure in the city.

Enforce mandatory inspections of homes.
Per the Baltimore City Health Department, state-licensed Environmental Health Specialists should “issue legally binding violation notices to owners of property with lead violations. They provide landlords and homeowners with specific orders of what work must be completed in their property and they perform a mandatory re-inspection before the affected family is allowed to return to the home. The City of Baltimore Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program attorney will take legal action when abatement is not completed in a timely matter.” Per our canvassing efforts, these mandatory inspections are not being conducted in certain areas and some areas may have had inspections with no follow up action. For proper data management and development of sustainable solutions, the city must reinforce home inspection plans.  

Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD) must continue to partner with stakeholders to ensure proper lead eradication.
BCHD works very closely with the Maryland Department of the Environment for lead testing of properties. Other partners also include the Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development, as well as the Green and Healthy Homes initiative. Per 2019 records, the city was awarded $600,000 through HUD’s Healthy Homes grant program- to address housing-related hazards. BCHD must continue to seek sufficient funding and support from all stakeholders so that resources can be distributed more equitably.

Compensate affected residents by providing essential services. Affected residents that have been subject to long term damage should be compensated with essential services that may include health care, financial support, educational services etc. Individuals already affected, especially children, may continue to experience health concerns throughout their life as lead stays within the body. It is not enough to provide one-time only services or funds to affected parties. The city must develop plans to consistently provide essential services as needed to victims of lead exposure. 

Ensure claims filed by residents are properly addressed with an established timeline for remediation. Per a Maryland regulation, “if you rent an affected property and it does not have a current passing lead paint risk reduction inspection certificate, you can file a Petition for Rent Escrow in the District Court in the county where you live.” There is little public knowledge about the current status of any claims. Firstly, the notification from the city should provide clarity on tenants’ rights as upheld by state statute (Real Property, Title 8: Landlord and Tenant). The city must follow up with any legal procedures in place to ensure safe living environments for its residents. Furthermore the city should establish a timeline for remediation and evidence of transparency to renters of homes with lead paint violations and post the life cycle of the lead paint violation.

Revalidate the registry data of affected properties. One assumption is that the registry list which includes data about hundreds of properties is riddled with errors. In order to eradicate lead properly, the data must be correct. The city should allocate the correct resources to establish an accurate database and ensure it is properly updated and maintained.  

Complete replacement of all sources of lead.   Replacing lead service lines, remediating lead paint in housing, and cleaning up contaminated lands are immediate physical steps that should happen at full capacity. The city must move in the direction of replacing aged infrastructure as opposed to minor short-term solutions. Furthermore, new infrastructure should take into account expected climate change effects to ensure future sustainability of the city. 




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