LEAD Action News vol 4 no 3 Winter ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News ( ISSN 1440-0561)
The journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.
Ceiling Collapse: A Case History
The need for the NSW Community Lead Advisory Service was sharply underlined by events on the day of the move from the old LEAD Group office in Dulwich Hill to the new one in Summer Hill. Just before the removalists were to take the last load, the answer phone was cleared. There was a message on it from a young mother in whose rented home the childrens bedroom ceiling had collapsed, covering the room in ceiling dust. The children were 1 and 4 years old. The inquirer was well aware of the lead problem from local media and LEADLINE information disseminated at a public meeting organised by Ashfield Council at which The LEAD Group provided speakers.
CLAS immediately moved into action on a borrowed phone in the new office. The inquirer was referred to: the Marrickville Legal Centre for advice on her rights as a tenant; to a lead assessor to assess the lead level of the dust; to a HEPA vacuum renting service and 2 cleaning services. A Project Officer delivered information to her on how to do a lead-safe clean-up. The real estate agent handling the tenancy was contacted and given information about the potential seriousness of the situation.
The ceiling dust assessment showed a lead level of 1077 parts per million (ppm). "There is no standard for acceptable lead levels in ceiling dust. However the maximum lead level for soil is 300 ppm," according to Miller et al ["Determination of Lead in Ceiling Dust", by Miller, Zoabi and Khoo, abstract of paper presented at the InterSect Conference, Sydney July 1996].
The family moved out for the night with friends. The next day they moved back and sealed off the bedroom, which was located at the front of the house, and barricaded the hallway access to it, living virtually in 2 rooms until the cleanup was done 6 days later. Fortunately there was no carpet in the room and the floor was tiled. A rug that had been there was disposed of, and the clean-up consisted of total wet-wiping of all surfaces with a liquid sugar soap solution. This was done at the landlords expense. The inquirer said: "If it wasnt for you guys, nothing would have been done. The real estate agent didnt take me seriously at all."
The inquirer then had to clean "everything that was in the room - toys, clothes, bedding. Heaps of stuff had to be thrown out - the rug, soft toys. It was an absolute nightmare, it was just such a mammoth task I was nearly crying. My one year old is dynamite, he only sleeps one hour a day and that was the only time I could do anything. It took weeks."
The tenant asked for compensation in the Tenants Tribunal for replacement of non-washable items, her time spent cleaning, cleaning materials and 50% refund of rent for the period during which they could not use the whole of the premises. This cost a total of $800.
The tenant was encouraged to reach a negotiated settlement for $475 outside of the Tribunal. She did this to avoid having to return on a second day. To have received the full amount she would have required quotes for the cost of replacement of every discarded item.
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Updated 26 November 2012