New Hampshire enforces stricter rental property lead safety regulations

New Hampshire State House

New Hampshire State House Dana Wormald

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Monitor staff

Published: 07-10-2024 11:01 AM

Starting this month, New Hampshire will enforce a significant change to its lead law to reduce exposure in buildings constructed before 1978, which is expected to lower the number of young children exposed to lead hazards.

The new section of the law requires that New Hampshire properties built before 1978 and converted into rental housing after July 1, must obtain a Lead-Safe Certificate from a licensed NH Risk Assessor. However, it does not apply to existing rental properties or owner-occupied properties.

“Even low levels of lead in a child’s blood can impact their ability to think, learn, and concentrate,” said Dr. Jonathan Ballard, the chief medical officer at the State Department of Health and Human Services. “Estimates suggest that more than 32,000 young children in New Hampshire live in older homes that may have lead paint, so it is critical that we continue working to prevent lead exposure.”

The updated law, enacted through Senate Bill 247 in 2018, also applies to childcare facilities in buildings constructed before 1978 and newly licensed after July. Currently, licensed childcare facilities are not required to obtain a Lead-Safe Certificate.

Lead paint, banned in 1978, was commonly used in homes constructed before that year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), exposure to lead, whether from lead paint or lead dust during renovations can severely impact a child’s health, leading to detrimental effects such as brain and nervous system damage, slowed growth and development, learning and behavioral difficulties, as well as hearing and speech impairments.

To qualify for a Lead-Safe Certificate, properties must be free from potential lead exposure hazards. This includes ensuring there is no peeling, chipping, or flaking of lead-based paint on surfaces such as windows, doors, or any areas accessible to children where paint could be chewed.

According to a 2022 state report, out of 35% of children under 3 years old tested in New Hampshire, 1,503 had elevated blood lead levels, with 422 requiring immediate action due to significantly higher levels. 

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Health experts and organizations emphasize that there is no safe level of lead exposure for children, whether from paint, water contaminated by lead pipes, contaminated soils, or even toys.

This effort is part of New Hampshire’s 2024-2035 Roadmap, which sets goals and initiatives to promote its residents' health and well-being.

By February, the state plans to implement a project in collaboration with pediatric medical providers. The goal is to reduce barriers to blood lead level testing for all one- and two-year-olds, ensuring early detection of potential lead exposure risks and furthering efforts to protect the health of young children statewide.