The Coalition is Anyone Who Cares and Will Take Action
That lead poisoning is pernicious and largely preventable is well recognized and addressed by several laws. Yet poisonings in Flint, Michigan still occurred. The original Coalition was formed to promote an adequate response to Flint. Now, we know that Flint is not alone. We have seen terrible stories in Newark and many other places. Lead is not the only threat we see in our water, in our soil, and in the products we buy and the buildings we live in. But it is one toxic we can have no disagreement concerning whether we should have any at all in our bodies or in position to poison us. If we can deal with lead intelligently then there is hope we can deal with the many other unnecessary insults we should reduce. Evidence is now undeniable that lead poisoning enormously impacts society as a whole by degrading the capacity of individuals to function intelligently and responsibly, worsening crime and the burden of costly health care. Failure to take appropriate action not only perpetuates this avoidable tragedy but sends a negative message to all citizens that their government is not acting in their best interests. Public-spirited institutions and individuals must now participate in generating an adequate response.
The Coalition for a Public Conversation on Lead was not incorporated. If you want to contribute to it, please do so through Clean Water Action, an organization that has shown a consistent interest in lead and performed constructive work in many areas. Tell them your contribution is for the public conversation on lead. That will help me do more than the few events I have been able to put on. But you may also be part of the informal coalition of those who want to raise consciousness by hosting a conversation where you are. People need to be engaged in talking about what we can do, and urging action by those who can take it. Public conversation will increase the chances of useful action.
My name is Rick Reibstein. I am a life-long environmentalist who worked for 27 years in government, who teaches environmental law and policy, and advises on improving environmental performance and governance. I have worked with many toxics issues, including managing a state program for helping companies reduce use of dangerous chemicals. For two years I was an enforcement attorney at the US Environmental Protection Agency enforcing the lead disclosure law that applies to agents of real estate transactions. As a result of this experience I felt the need to educate realtors, who did not seem to understand the law, and I formed the Regulated Community Compliance Project at Boston University. For six years I provided free courses under subsidies from EPA. I reached more than three thousand real estate professionals in New England. Before-and-after knowledge assessments showed a marked increase in understanding of the law. Realtors learned that protecting children and others is part of protecting their own business interests as well as the right thing to do. The course measurably increased their understanding that they are jointly and severally liable with clients who fail to disclose information pertaining to lead, unless they have fully explained to their clients the responsibility to disclose. This is not limited to when there is proof that lead is in the paint in the house. It is broader than that – it is all information pertaining to lead. It is not for others to limit, but to respect the right to information necessary to protect health. Very few realtors seemed to understand, when I began providing this class, that they could protect themselves from rather large potential liability by undertaking sufficient efforts to make sure their clients know the law. We now have a similar problem concerning the Renovation Rule that requires leadsafe work by contractors. Many do not realize this creates documentation pertaining to lead that must be disclosed. Contractors and their clients still need to understand the rule better. The lead laws have had deep and lasting benefits, but can be improved. Education about the regulations, intent and safer practices also provides a foundation for engaging constructively with agencies.
The course for realtors has been accredited by the New Hampshire and Maine Real Estate Commissions. I deliver it frequently at the Greater Manchester/Nashua Board of Realtors and offer it on-site to companies that want to ensure staff stay out of trouble and avoid harm to the innocent. To discuss presentation of the course, write to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Please see my article on the many things we can be doing, Resuming Progess on Lead, A Prime Indicator of Civilization, at https://digitalcommons.law.wne.edu/lawreview/vol40/iss1/4/.
Work on lead with BU students is posted at www.bu.edu/rccp.
Also please see the bill I wrote for Senator Pat Jehlen on making it possible to sue those who recklessly place lead in commerce, SB 955 of the 191st session of the MA General Court. Part of ensuring that lead poisoning will not continue to recur is updating outmoded law that permits irresponsible action. States have the power to change the rules of litigation through legislation. https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/S955