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Groundbreaking legislation addressing lead paint in schools passes through Philadelphia City Council

For Immediate Release

[Philadelphia, Pa.] – Amidst growing public outcry over the environmental-health threats faced by children and teachers in Philadelphia public schools, City Council took decisive action today by setting some of the nation’s strongest safeguards to address lead paint exposure in school buildings.

Stakeholders requested action by city officials since regulations for the removal of lead paint in schools are almost non-existent at the state or federal level.

“Most parents are shocked to learn how few measures are in place to protect children from lead paint in the place where they spend most of their waking hours—school buildings,” said David Masur, a parent of two Philadelphia school district students, PennEnvironment Executive Director and member of Philadelphia Healthy School Initiative.

The bill sets groundbreaking standards for the removal and remediation of lead paint in school buildings and takes critical steps to better inform parents, teachers, and others working in school buildings about lead-paint remediation taking place. It also sets comprehensive standards for ongoing control of damaged lead paint and clean up of lead paint dust and chips in school buildings.

“Making sure children will not be in contact with damaged lead paint and, importantly, requiring that the cleaning of lead dust from surfaces in our schools every day, will protect all students, families and school staff from this dangerous hazard.” Jerry Roseman, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) Director of Environmental Science stated.

Environmental health experts believe these new standards to be the country’s most comprehensive. “This legislation can serve as a model for school districts and communities across the country to protect children from lead.” said Roseman

Bill 180700 was introduced to Philadelphia City Council by Councilman Mark Squilla in June 2018. The legislation was drafted with technical support and advocacy from the PFT and in collaboration with Philadelphia Healthy Schools Initiative (PHSI), a citywide-network of over sixty organizations including parent groups, the city’s major labor unions, civic associations and environmental and public health groups.

After input from the Philadelphia Health Department and School District of Philadelphia officials, the bill was amended and strengthened. On December 3, 2018, the proposal was brought up by City Council’s Committee on Licenses and Inspections where the legislation passed unanimously.

A current version of the legislation can be viewed here.

Supporters of the bill are optimistic about the likelihood that Mayor Kenney will sign the legislation into law. “Lead paint has posed a threat to the health of our school population for far too many years,” noted the bill’s sponsor, City Councilman Mark Squilla, “I am proud to have worked in collaboration with the Healthy Schools Initiative, PFT, our school district, parents and other advocates to create a solution that we hope will eliminate a longstanding health concern in our schools.”

PHSI is next turning its attention towards similar legislation, introduced by Councilman Derek Green and pending action in City Council, which is aimed at improving asbestos remediation and reporting in Philadelphia public schools.