New York Lead Poisoning Attorney
Experienced Attorneys Handling Lead Poisoning and Toxic Substance Injury Cases Since 1971
New York City is home to some of the most historic and beautiful buildings in the country. Many of the older apartments and high-rises in New York were built long before the federal government banned lead-based paint in 1978. As these buildings age and the paint begins to crack and peel, home occupants and workers who are hired to renovate and remodel these older buildings face the danger of being exposed to the toxic paint and dust particles containing lead.
Exposure to air, soil, food, water or products contaminated with lead can result in life-threatening medical conditions involving the heart, bone, kidney and reproductive system. If you are a victim of lead poisoning, it is crucial that you understand your legal rights and options.
Sources of Lead in New York City
In April 2013, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that more than half a million children nationwide have excessive blood lead levels. According to the New York State Department of Health, the most common cause of lead exposure is older, lead-based paint. Lead paint becomes extremely dangerous when it chips and breaks apart. Once the paint begins to break into dust and smaller pieces, it may be inhaled or ingested.
Sources of lead that have been found in New York City include:
- Soil: Homes near busy streets and factories often have elevated levels of lead in the soil.
- Drinking water: Pipes made before 1986 can contain enough lead to contaminate water.
- Children’s toys: Several brands of toys that currently line store shelves may contain elevated levels of lead. This is particularly common among toys that are manufactured in countries with fewer regulations than the United States.
- Lead-glazed ceramics, crystal and pewter: Food and drink stored in lead-glazed china or crystal dishes can become contaminated.
- Dust: Lead dust is typically generated by the chipping and peeling of lead-based paint.
- Imported canned foods: The United States banned the use of lead solder on cans back in 1995, but it is still used in some foreign countries.
Other items: Many other products may contain lead, including car batteries, radiators, folk medicines and mini-blinds.
Why is Lead Harmful?
When a person is exposed to excessive amounts of lead, whether it is inhaled or swallowed, it can be toxic. Exposure to high lead levels within a short period of time is known as acute toxicity. Exposure to small amounts of lead over a long period of time is known as chronic toxicity. Lead is a particularly hazardous substance because once it gets into the system, it is distributed throughout the body just like other minerals that benefit the body such as iron, calcium and zinc. When lead gets into your bloodstream, it can damage the red blood cells and limit their ability to carry vital oxygen to the organs and tissues that need it. This may lead to anemia or the depletion of red blood cells. Most lead, however, ends up in the bones where it causes even more issues such as interfering with the absorption of calcium that bones need to grow healthy and strong. Calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth, muscles, nerves and blood vessel function.
Lead exposure is also a concern for adults. As an adult’s body is larger than a child’s, they tend to have a higher threshold for lead levels before being affected. High lead levels in adults may cause a number of issues such as increased chance of illness during pregnancy; harm to the fetus including brain damage or death; fertility problems in men and women; high blood pressure; digestive, nerve and memory issues; and muscle and joint pain.
The Scourge of Childhood Lead Poisoning
Lead Poisoning is an entirely preventable disease. It continues to be a major environmental problem for children in the United States. Lead exposure can result in neurological damage including intellectual impairment, developmental delays, learning disabilities, memory loss, hearing problems, attention deficit issues, hyperactivity, behavioral and emotional issues and other health problems. Lead is particularly dangerous to children 6 and under. The growth and development of their nervous systems occurs more rapidly during this stage and the effects of the poisoning are more pronounced.
According to the New York State Department of Public Health, the state consistently ranks high when it comes to key risk factors associated with lead poisoning including factors such as many young children living in poverty, a large immigrant population and an older deteriorated housing stock. The 2000 U.S. Census data show that in New York State:
- Nearly 1.7 million children are under 6.
- 476,000 children are between 1 and 2 years of age.
- The state is third in the nation for families with children under 5 living in poverty.
- 23 percent of the population in New York State is born outside the United States.
- New York State has more than 3.3 million homes built before 1950.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 500,000 U.S. children between 1 and 5 years of age have blood lead levels above 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, the reference level at which the CDC recommends public health actions be initiated.
Symptoms of Lead Poisoning
Lead poisoning can be difficult to detect because even those with high levels of lead may not display overt symptoms. Only those with dangerous or excessive blood lead levels show signs of poisoning.
- Newborns may suffer from learning difficulties and growth impediments.
- Children may experience irritability, weight loss, abdominal pain, vomiting, loss of appetite, constipation and learning difficulties.
- Adults may suffer from high blood pressure, pain in the extremities, headache, memory loss, mood disorders, declines in mental functioning, reduce sperm count or miscarriage in pregnant women.
The Effects of Long Term Lead Poisoning
Lead poisoning can lead to a variety of health problems in children, including, but not limited to:
- Poor muscle coordination
- Irreversible brain damage
- Decreased bone and muscle growth
- Damage to the nervous system, kidneys and/or hearing
- Speech and language problems
- Developmental delays
- Seizures and coma
- Behavioral and cognitive issues
- Psychological problems such as depression and anxiety
Treatment for Lead Poisoning
The treatment for lead poisoning varies depending on blood lead levels. The most important part of the treatment is reduction of lead exposure. As the body naturally eliminates the lead, the lead levels in the blood will be reduced. Children with severe cases of lead poisoning will be hospitalized to receive a medication called a “chelating agent.”
This medicine chemically binds with lead making it weaker so that the body can eliminate it naturally. Including calcium, iron and vitamin C can also help decrease the speed at which the body absorbs lead. It is important that children who live in older homes as well as the siblings of a child found to have lead poisoning be tested. Cases should be reported to the public health department.
Who Can Be Held Liable for Lead Poisoning?
In lead poisoning cases, there are several potential parties that can be held accountable for injuries, damages and losses:
Property owners and/or Property managers: Landlords in New York City are required under the law to notify tenants if a rental unit might contain lead. Those who are selling a home have the same legal obligation to the buyers of the home. If a landlord or seller knowingly withheld information about the presence of lead in the dwelling, they can be held liable for all of the injuries and damages caused by the lead exposure.
Contractors and construction companies: In New York State, companies are required to provide employees with a safe and healthy work environment. If you have been exposed to lead at a construction site and are suffering adverse health effects as a result of such exposure, the contractor or construction company in charge of a project may be held liable for damages.
Paint manufacturers: Makers of paint brands who used lead in paint products can also be held liable for injuries and damages.
Other product manufacturers: Lead, due to its versatility, is used in a variety of other products – from children’s toys and jewelry to cooking utensils. If the lead levels in these products are above the legal limit and if it causes lead poisoning, manufacturers of the defective products can be held accountable for the damages and losses to the victim and his or her family.
Responsibility of Property Owners and Property Managers
Property owners and property management companies should not take lead paint and other sources of lead poisoning lightly. Here are a few tips from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that may help property owners and property managers be more aware and do their part to prevent lead poisoning.
- Disclose lead paint exposure to residents. Apartment built before 1978 that contain lead paint are subject to disclosure in the event they are sold or leased. The Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act, also known as Title X, protects families from exposure to lead from paint, dust and soil. Failure to disclose these types of crucial details can lead to serious consequences.
- Federal law requires landlords to hire a US EPA Renovate, Repair & Paint or RRP certified professional to perform renovation work in a pre-1978 residence containing lead paint. Unless landlords have a report from a certified lead risk assessor saying the property has been tested and does not contain lead paint, they are required to assume that the building has lead paint.
- Landlords should also conduct peeling and chipped paint inspections. When lead paint chips or peels, it creates the potential for lead poisoning. If chipped or cracked lead paint is found, property owners and/or property managers should call in a certified firm to repair it right away. They should also look for areas where painted surfaces like windows come into contact with each other. Such friction can create lead dust.
Recovering Damages in Lead Exposure Cases
The health effects of lead exposure can be devastating or even fatal. There are several challenges plaintiffs in these cases may face in terms of recovering damages to pay to diagnostic tests, medical expenses and cost of continuing treatment and care. In a residential setting a landlord or the seller of a home may not have sufficient funds available to cover medical and other costs.
If the plaintiff has health insurance, the insurance company will initially pay for the treatment. However, if the landlord or seller has insurance, that may help pay for the victim’s injuries and damages. It is important to look into whether the at-fault party’s insurance covers liability for lead poisoning. In the case of lead poisoning in the workplace, workers’ compensation insurance may pay for the injured employee’s medical expenses and a portion of lost wages.
Workers may also be able to file third-party claims for significant money damages against parties other than the employer and seek compensation for noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering. In a product liability case, plaintiffs may sue the manufacturer of the defective product and seek damages. Some of the damages that may be sought in lead poisoning cases include, but are not limited to, medical expenses, diagnostic costs, hospitalization, treatments, permanent injuries, disabilities, past and future pain and suffering, etc.
Compensation for Victims
If you or a loved one has been affected by lead poisoning or lead exposure, the experienced New York personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options, and also fight hard to recover just compensation for you. Our firm recovered $1,162,500 for a child who suffered lead poisoning from paint in her apartment. The child’s injuries were subtle and difficult to recognize. We recovered $162,500 above the $1 million dollar total policy in this case. Despite the judge’s efforts to settle the case for $950,000, we fought hard and recovered $162,500 more than the insurance full policy of $1,000,000.
Please contact us TOLL FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-WORK-4-YOU (1-800-967-5496). WE CAN EVEN COME TO YOU. There is no attorneys’ fee unless we recover money for you. We can also help with personal injury cases in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been seriously injured in any of the 50 U.S. states, please call us and we will try to help you with your case.
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