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2005 May - June

Using the Federal Lead Hazard Disclosure Rule's Private Right of Action for Compensatory Damages and Broad-Based Injunctive Relief

By Gregory D. Luce & Anne M. Phelps

The private citizen-suit provision of the Residential Lead-Based Hazard Reduction Act can be a powerful tool for individuals and community-based organizations to address lead-based paint hazards in rental properties. The Act mandates treble compensatory damages and, through its link to the Toxic Substance Control Act, allows injunctive relief to compel property owners to abate lead hazards. Raised independently or as a counterclaim in an eviction proceeding, a claim for compensatory damages and injunctive relief may afford a party complete relief.

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Improving Fairness and Accuracy in Food Stamp Fraud Investigations

Advocating Reform Under Food Stamp Regulations

By David A. Super

Some state food stamp agencies are overly aggressive in pursuing charges that claimants have committed intentional program violations. Just as failure to pursue allegations of fraud can undermine the Food Stamp Program's goals, so can intimidation of claimants. States should take care to follow appropriate procedures in their investigations, and Food and Nutrition Service regulations offer ample grounds to advocate fair treatment of clients. Four key principles should guide states' antifraud efforts.

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Lawyers and Doctors Partner for Healthy Housing

By Monisha Cherayil, Denise Oliveira, Megan Sandel & Ellen Tohn

State and local laws, as well as the Residential Lead-Based Hazard Reduction Act, ensure correction of substandard housing conditions that can cause increased rates of asthma, lead poisoning, and injuries in children. Through the Family Advocacy Program at the Boston Medical Center, pediatricians and lawyers work together to hold landlords and the inspectional services department accountable for their obligations to maintain healthy and safe conditions in residential housing.

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Healthy Children, Healthy Communities, and Legal Services

By Robert García & Erica Flores Baltodano

Low-income communities in urban areas are disproportionately denied the benefits of safe open spaces for physical activity in parks and schools and disproportionately suffer from obesity-related diseases. Through advocacy and public education campaigns, legal aid providers can help communities achieve equal access to schools, parks, and green spaces for healthy children and healthy communities.

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Leveraging the Federal Lead Hazard Disclosure Law to Improve Housing Conditions

By Maria Rapuano & Anne M. Phelps

The Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act requires sellers and landlords to notify prospective buyers and tenants of known lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards but does not require sellers and landlords to correct hazards or even assess their properties for lead. Despite these limitations, advocates are increasingly optimistic about the potential of this federal lead hazard disclosure law to spur corrective action in high risk rental housing. Through its Disclosure Leveraging Project, the Alliance for Healthy Homes has developed and successfully implemented strategies for leveraging the federal disclosure law to motivate landlords of high-risk rental housing to control lead hazards and improve housing conditions.

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Strategies to Improve Medicaid Screening and Treatment for Lead Poisoning

By Anne W. Wengrovitz & Manjusha P. Kulkarni

A current policy of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requires all state Medicaid programs to conduct blood lead tests for all young children as part of the Early Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment program, and national data show that Medicaid children are at increased risk of lead exposure. Still, some states seek permission to implement selective screening. Creative advocacy is needed to ensure that state Medicaid programs meet the needs of Medicaid children at risk of lead poisoning.

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School Location Matters

Preventing School-Siting Disasters

By Steven Fischbach, Lois Marie Gibbs & Stacey Gonzalez

Siting new schools on cheap, polluted land is tempting to many cash-strapped school districts, particularly districts serving largely low-income and minority children, but the ultimate cost to children's health and the public fisc is great. Few states have adequate laws to prevent districts from siting schools on or near environmental hazards, or adequate mechanisms for public participation in school-siting decisions. Nonetheless, through early intervention in school construction planning, legislative advocacy, and, where necessary, litigation, legal aid advocates can help prevent poor school-siting decisions or minimize their harmful effect on children's health.

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Poisoned by Poverty

A Call to Improve Health Outcomes for Low-Income and Minority Children

By Marcheta Lee Gillam, Steven Fischbach & Ralph Scott

Often exposed to environmental toxicants in their homes, schools, and communities, children are generally more susceptible to harm from such exposure than adults. Lawyers in legal services can protect children and their families from toxic exposure, particularly the more frequent and more severe ones occurring in low-income and minority communities. They can advocate precautionary approaches toward environmental risks and meaningful community involvement in decision making that affects the health of children. The National Environmental Policy Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are key laws for children's environmental health and environmental justice issues.

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