Cleveland Plans to Train and Hire More Lead Inspectors

Akbar Tyler, a home inspector with Environmental Health Watch, examines a house for lead.
Akbar Tyler, a home inspector with Environmental Health Watch, examines a house for lead. (Sarah Jane Tribble / ideastream)
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by Nick Castele

Cleveland officials say they’re taking steps to fix the city’s programs to combat lead poisoning. They faced three hours of questioning Tuesday from city council.

The city’s acting health director, Natoya Walker Minor, told council Cleveland is training six current health inspectors to conduct investigations of homes where children have been found with elevated lead levels.

“The last few weeks in the month of December have been very difficult,” she said. “They’ve been very revealing and very enlightening into the state of our lead program. Our lead program is flawed. We recognize that.”

Currently the city employs one full-time inspector, and one contractor. Walker Minor says there are plans to hire two more people. She and officials from other city departments will be meeting to streamline efforts, she says, and to better coordinate with the county.

Of all the homes with exposed, chipping or peeling paint that can cause lead poisoning in children, some are repeat offenders. Walker Minor said the state has identified 230 such addresses in Cleveland. While these places aren’t responsible for all the cases in the city, as many as 700 children have been poisoned there. She said families may move in and out of a house before investigators can catch up with them and before the lead problem can be addressed. 

Councilman Brian Cummins says the city should do a better job using data to identify houses that put children at risk.

“Where children have gotten sick, and then structures have not been remediated, more children have gotten sick,” he said. “The poisoning continues.”

Council plans a day-long meeting on lead poisoning in January.

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