Lead paint and mold plague affordable housing units

BY Raven Santana, Correspondent |

If your home was built before 1978, there’s a good chance it has lead-based paint, according to the EPA.

“New Jersey has 11 communities that had higher incidents of children of having high leads compared to Flint in the same year. And what we know is the most likely place to be poisoned by lead is not necessarily by water; it’s from old paint in housing,” said Elyse Pivnick, senior director of Environmental Health at Isles Inc.

Pivnick was one of a handful of speakers at a public hearing by the Assembly Housing and Development Committee. The discussion focused on how mold and lead impacts affordable housing in New Jersey.

Currently there are laws requiring lead testing for homes built before 1978, but no laws requiring lead inspections for single or two family homes built during or after 1978, leaving tenants to fend for themselves.

“Certainly people are afraid to lose their housing. There isn’t enough affordable housing in New Jersey, and that’s a problem nationwide,” said Pivnick.

A person can be poisoned by eating lead or breathing in lead dust. In older homes, lead paint is most likely to chip or peel off where children can easily eat it. Experts say it can cost an average of $20,000 to remove lead paint.

While New Jersey has laws to protect tenants against household hazards like lead paint, there are no regulations or standards to regulate mold.

“In the state of New Jersey there is no certification for people performing mold inspections,” said Monmouth County health officer Chris Merkel. “There are remediation guidelines, but there are no laws.”

Merkel says that there aren’t enough laws regarding mold because reactions can be variable.

“Basically because it’s so hard and each person’s different in terms of their reactions to mold. Someone may get symptoms at low levels of mold versus somebody who doesn’t gets symptoms verses high levels of mold,” he said.

“It’s very important that no matter what type of rules we set forward that enforcement are huge is huge,” said Assemblywoman Annete Chaparro. “Who’s responsible, who’s going to follow up and who’s going to report back that this is working.”

Advocates say besides enforcement, finding a place to relocate tenants when lead or mold is found can be a huge challenge since affordable housing is usually located in older buildings where the same issue can arise.