Lawsuit Alleges Deliberate Exposure of Baltimore Children to Lead Poisoning

A lawsuit filed on September 15, 2011 alleges that the Kennedy Krieger Institute, a Baltimore research facility associated with Johns Hopkins University that cares for disabled children, exposed multiple children to lead poisoning during a study of lead paint conducted by the Institute in the 1990s. The class action suit alleges negligence, battery, fraud, and violations of Maryland’s consumer protection act. The number of children, many of whom would now be adults, who may be involved in the suit is not yet known.

The study, conducted from 1993 to 1999, looked for a cost-effective method to abate lead in children’s blood levels. Part of the study involved moving families into subsidized homes with varying levels of treatment to reduce exposure to lead paint and dust. Some homes had full removal of lead paint, and some had other remedial measures. The families included children ages 12 months to 5 years. Researchers would collect dust and water samples from the houses and blood samples from the residents over a 2-year period to compare the effectiveness of different methods at reducing lead exposure.

The lawsuit alleges that children received dangerous levels of exposure to lead in paint and dust in the houses used in the study. Researchers from the Institute allegedly assured the families that the homes were “lead safe,” and did not specifically disclose the potential dangers of lead exposure. The lawsuit further alleges that the Institute did not provide any medical treatment to participating children. Some children reportedly suffer permanent neurological injuries because of the exposure, lack of warning, and lack of treatment.

This lawsuit is only the latest in a larger legal battle related to this study. Another lawsuit reached the Maryland Court of Appeals in 2001, when the court drew a comparison between this study and the Tuskegee experiments of the early- to mid-20th century. The Tuskegee experiment deliberately withheld treatment for syphilis from African-American men who participated in the study, leading to considerable suffering and preventable deaths. The Institute still disputes this comparison.

While this lawsuit raises concerns about the nature of the study, the study’s results have undeniably benefited the safety of Maryland homes. Lead poisoning can devastate the body, damaging the brain and most other bodily systems. Children under the age of 6 are especially vulnerable, and could face significant mental and physical impairment. The Institute claims that Baltimore had the highest rate of lead poisoning in the U.S. The protocols for lead abatement developed by the Institute became law in Maryland in 1996, and lead poisoning in Baltimore has dropped by as much as 93 percent.

Lead exposure continues to negatively affect people, both from exposure in the home and exposure elsewhere. Maryland law imposes duties to disclose the presence of lead paint and to take certain measures to remove or abate lead.

The Maryland injury lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen represent people who have been injured by exposure to toxic substances like lead paint in homes. For a free and confidential consultation, contact the firm today.

Web Resources:

Justice and Fairness in the Kennedy Krieger Institute Lead Paint Study: the Ethics of Public Health Research on Less Expensive, Less Effective Interventions, David R. Buchanan, DrPH and Franklin G. Miller, PhD, American Journal of Public Health, May 2006
Johns Hopkins University Experiment on Lead Paint Puts Children in Danger, Alliance for Human Resource Protection, August 24, 2001

More Blog Posts:

No CO Detector in Rowhouse Where Fatal Baltimore Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Occurred, Maryland Accident Law Blog, December 29, 2010
Baltimore County Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Incident Kills 2 People and Sickens At Least 10 Others, Maryland Accident Law Blog, December 14, 2010

Lead Paint Discovered on Washington D.C. Park Fence Near Where Hundreds of Kids Play
, Maryland Accident Law Blog, September 20, 2007

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