Last year, the water crisis in Flint, Mich., brought the issue of lead poisoning from water pipes to the front of people's attention. It began back in April 2014, when Flint changed its water supply but did not apply corrosion control treatment to the water, which allowed the water to leach lead from the pipes and poison the residents, particularly the children. Along with lead in pipes, lead paint has been a known cause of concern for several decades. Rental dwellings often have lead issues either from water or paint.
The use of lead goes back to ancient Rome, when it was considered the father of all metals. It was used for a variety of items ranging from dishes, pots and pans to face powders, rouges, mascaras and paints, as a condiment for seasoning food and disguising inferior wine, and even as a spermicide.
The vast network of plumbing was with lead pipes. While aware that it could cause serious health problems, they minimized the hazards, not realizing that long-term limited exposure was still very dangerous. Madness, sterility and dementia were common results of lead poisoning.
During the Middle Ages, alchemists tried to turn lead into gold, and in the early twentieth century, lead was commonly used in paints for furniture, walls, cribs and other items. It tastes sweet to children, which is why it gets eaten when paint starts to peel. Lead poisoning in children causes convulsions, encephalopathy, nervous system damage, delayed development and others problems, including death.
It was 1978 when the United States finally got around to banning the use of lead paint, but it was still allowed in pipes. The EPA recommends having homes inspected for lead under the following conditions:
Your child has been diagnosed with lead poisoning.
You live in a home built before 1978 and children will live there.
You are about to remodel or do anything that will disturb or generate lead-based paint dust and chips.
You are buying or renting a home. Federal law allows buyers to test to determine the presence of lead hazards.
You are concerned about possible lead exposure.
Insurance comes into play when an individual owns an older home and rents it out. Carriers do not want to provide coverage for the extensive injuries that can be caused by lead paint that may still be present in an older home. An insured cannot be liable to himself for living in a residence with lead paint, but is certainly liable to any tenant he rents property to. Three states have specific endorsements for lead poisoning: Maine, Massachusetts and Maryland all have exclusions, and Massachusetts actually has an endorsement granting coverage.
This endorsement is DL 24 42, and provides coverage for bodily injury that occurs during the coverage period for lead poisoning. Coverage is for a scheduled amount. The property location must be scheduled as well. Bodily injury is defined as harm, sickness or disease arising out of lead poisoning, including required care, loss of services and death. Injury that results from an insured's gross or willful negligence is excluded.
The exclusion, DL 24 41, states the opposite. That bodily injury resulting from lead poisoning resulting from an insured's gross or willful negligence or caused by the presence of lead in a residential unit, including common areas in buildings built before 1978, that is owned by an insured and rented or held for rental to others is not covered. This includes appliances, furnishings, fixtures other than plumbing fixtures contained in or on a residential building or other structure.
An exception exists if the injury occurs after the date a lead inspector has issued a Letter of Interim Control. Such a letter gives the insured one year to address issues that were found upon inspection. There is also an exception for 90 days from when the insured took title of the property if an injury results during that time, since the insured likely did not know the property contained lead.
Similar to Massachusetts, Maryland also has an exclusion and a coverage endorsement. The property and limit must be scheduled. Maryland takes lead issues very seriously, and has built its coverage endorsement around the state statues regulating lead exposure in residential property. It identifies criteria for “persons at risk” and includes relocation expenses including moving and hauling expenses, HEPA-vacuuming of the tenant's upholstered furniture that was at the affected property, a security deposit at the leadsafe dwelling the tenant is relocating to, and installation and connection of utilities and appliances. If relocation is only temporary, then meals and the cost of storing furniture and other belongings is covered as well.
The exclusion is straightforward and excludes coverage for bodily injury caused by lead exposure. The Maine exclusion for lead poisoning is similar as well; it excludes injury due to an occurrence of lead poisoning; it has a time frame of exposure 31 days after the Department of Human Services or a lead inspector have given notice of the existence of a lead hazard. Within those 31 days the insured has the opportunity to make necessary corrections; beyond that time period the insured is solely responsible unless the department determines that the hazard no longer exists.
As serious as the effects of lead poisoning are, it is surprising that more states do not have exclusions for such injury. The DL 24 01, Personal Liability that is usually used with the dwelling property forms to provide liability coverage does not have a lead exclusion included. While it is possible that some states have a greater number of older homes in use than others, it is still surprising that lead poisoning is not a standard exclusion in the dwelling forms.