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Class action lawsuit filed against New Haven for its new policy on lead abatement

NEW HAVEN - On Monday, the city of New Haven was hit with a class action lawsuit that asserts that the city's decision to change its longstanding policy of addressing elevated lead levels in homes will harm hundreds of children.

What triggered the suit? New Haven is now adopting a policy where they won't inspect a home, in many cases, until elevated lead levels in children, ages 6 or under, reach four times what the city's current standard is.

For many years, New Haven's policy on when to conduct home inspections and lead abatement were among the most progressive in the state.

“There is an acceptable level of lead, according to the CDC - anything below five on the blood test that we do as a standard screening ,” said Dr. Laurel Shader, Chairwoman of Pediatrics for Fair Haven Community Health Care.

But, Attorney Amy Marx, of the New Haven Legal Assistance Association, which filed the class action suit, says the city has now decided to adopt the state threshold before triggering a home inspection.

“So, the city’s decision to change the law and only protect kids at 20, rather than five, has literally just dropped the ball completely and abandoned approximately 300 children in town,” said Marx.

The most recent child lead poisoning report, issued by the State Department of Public Health about a year ago, shows that 314 New Haven children had blood lead levels that met the city's current standards for investigation. But, only 12 children met the state standard.

Dr. Shader said, “You have a potential for learning disabilities with anything above five. Why would you suddenly decide that 20 is acceptable again?”

“It causes lifelong impacts,” Marx added . “It can drop points off their IQ. It causes behavioral problems. It causes neurological problems. It’s causing attention deficit disorder.”

Citing pending legal action, the city is refraining from saying much other than they decided to make an adjustment in the lead level threshold as a byproduct of their work with an independent consultant and the State Department of Public Health.

A Superior Court judge has ordered a hearing May 17 in New Haven.

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