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December 1, 2005 - Tougher Penalties For Lead Based Paint Suggested

Owners of buildings in Illinois with lead-based paint could face stiffer penalties for noncompliance with the Lead Poisoning Prevention Act. State lawmakers are currently considering the recommendations of a state-appointed advisory council's recommendations.

On Friday, the final proposal outlining fees and fines that cold help eliminate lead poisoning in Illinois will be consolidated by the 26-member Illinois Lead Safe Housing Advisory Council. Experts say that lead poisoning causes learning disabilities and behavioral disabilities and can lead to convulsions and death. Some suggest that many children in the juvenile justice system may suffer from lead poisoning. Specifically, the council will be considering the recommendation of a $10 stamp fee for all Illinois real estate document recordings to help pay for lead abatement.

"Lead poisoning is entirely preventable," said Anita Weinberg, council co-chairwoman. "Most children are poisoned in their own homes."

Illinois leads the nation in elevated lead poisoning levels, though the number of poisoning incidents has declined recently.

In DuPage County, 33 of 2,277 children ages 3 and younger tested last year were found to have elevated lead levels.

Other recommendations beyond the stamp fee include a 10-cent to 25-cent tax on every can of paint sold in Illinois; expanding a federal new market tax credit program to reward those who invest in lead abatement; and including lead abatement in new tax increment financing district projects. The council also proposes that the General Assembly consider providing a check-off box for donations on state income tax forms.

Properties built prior to 1978 create higher lead levels in neighboring real estate during demolition, so the council is recommending that the state impose demolition fees on pre-1978 properties to fund lead clean up, removal, and enforcement activities. Weinberg said an estimated 83 percent of pre-1978 buildings contain lead paint.

Finally, the council recommended more proactivity by the state, asking that willful violators be prohibited from doing business with Illinois.  In order to accelerate the rate of clean up across the state, the council recommended the state itself clean up noncompliant buildings then sue the owners for up to three times the cost of the clean up and disposal, including relocation costs for residents. The council will recommend changing the Lead Poisoning Prevention Act to charge violators with a felony instead of the current misdemeanor charge.

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