Landmark legislation that would halt the spread of lead paint dust when buildings are repainted in San Francisco passed a supervisors committee Thursday.
The new law, which drafters said is the first of its kind in the country, would put teeth into San Francisco's lead-poisoning prevention program. That project is designed to protect children, who are most at risk of lead poisoning.
In a city where a vast majority of the buildings still have lead-based paint on their exteriors, the new law would require homeowners or painting contractors to notify residents and neighbors of a pending painting project.
It would also require painters to use "lead-safe practices" for removing lead paint. These include wet sanding, which prevents the spread of lead dust, and the draping of buildings in mesh to contain the dust.
Warning notices in English, Spanish and Chinese would have to be posted outside jobs where lead paint is being removed.
"This is landmark legislation," said Neil Gendel of the Healthy Children Organizing Project. He led a citizens' committee that spend four years drafting the new law.
"It's real prevention. We're no longer just talking about education," he added.
A companion piece of legislation approved Thursday would try to limit children's exposure to lead-laced empty lots. It sets up a testing program for the soil in these lots, along with rules for removing or sealing off the hazard.
Before voting, the supervisors' Health, Family and Environment Committee heard a few horror stories. Natalie Berg, who brought her 10-month old daughter Adela to the hearing, said one day last June she came home to discover that painters had started scraping paint off a neighboring Mission District building. Dust flew everywhere.
"We knew enough to call the health department," she said. Tests were conducted that found her building's back yard and the interior of her apartment contained unsafe levels of lead. Within a week, her cat died.
Adela and her older brother now both have lead levels well above normal.
Under existing law, there was nothing Berg could do to stop the unsafe painting practices.
But under the proposed legislation, she could call the Bureau of Building Inspection, which would send out a staff member to check if lead-based paint, which was legal until 1978, is being scraped. The inspector could stop work and order a cleanup.
Work could restart once safe practices were adopted.
Fines would be possible for repeat offenders.
The committee also hear
from Frances Doherty, owner of Doherty Painting and Construction, whose
workers already use safe practices.
Other environmental issues articles: