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Lead paint

The Court of Appeals, quite rightly, ruled that compensation for victims of lead paint under a landmark 1994 agreement was insufficient. It left in place the law's remediation requirements for rental properties constructed before 1950 but eliminated all caps on damages. That upsets what had been an extremely productive compromise -- rates of childhood lead poisoning have plummeted in the last 15 years -- and puts even responsible landlords at huge risk of liability, a development that could significantly reduce the availability of affordable housing, particularly in Baltimore. Given the terms of the court decision, there is no obvious solution for the landlords, but lawmakers should work this year to find one, and advocates for lead paint victims should join them. They may be tempted to declare victory and let the landlords fend for themselves, but they should instead use the opportunity to further their aims, perhaps by extending remediation to buildings constructed later than 1950, lowering the thresholds of blood lead levels that are a cause for action, and seeking a financing mechanism for more lead paint inspectors.
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