Illinois is proposing a new rule that would lower the state’s “action level” for children with lead in their blood. The new rule would also stiffen penalties for those who violate the Lead Poisoning Prevention Act and Code.

The rule, proposed by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), would lower the threshold level of lead in a child’s blood that would require state officials to intervene. Currently, that level is set at 10 micrograms per deciliter. The proposed rule would lower the level to 5 micrograms per deciliter, which is the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Any blood test results showing a child has blood lead levels at or above 5 micrograms per deciliter would require state officials to take various actions, including visiting the child’s home. The rule requires state officials to provide information to the child’s parent or guardian concerning the risks posed by lead and how to reduce a child’s lead exposure. Under the rule, any blood test showing a child has elevated lead levels must be reported to the IDPH within 48 hours.

Public officials expect lowering the action level will affect thousands of children in Illinois. According to the IDPH, of the 229,000 children tested for lead in 2017, more than 7,000 children had blood lead levels at or above 5 micrograms per deciliter. But more than 5,600 of those children had blood levels below 10 micrograms per deciliter, meaning that they would not receive state intervention under the current rule. The CDC has recommended lowering the action level to 5 micrograms per deciliter since 2012 and based the recommendation on a growing number of studies that found even low blood lead levels may cause life-long negative health effects for children.

The new rule would also expand the IDPH’s enforcement authority. It would allow the IDPH to levy fines not only against licensed professionals, like lead abatement contractors, but also against anyone who violates the Lead Poisoning Prevention Act or the Code, which would include property owners who fail to perform lead remediation on properties where affected children live.

The rule would also stiffen penalties for violators, raising the maximum penalty for first-time offenders from $1,000 to $5,000, and the minimum penalty for repeat offenders from $1,000 to $5,000. The rule would also raise fines from $1,000 to $5,000 for violations that cause lead dust or debris to be spread to surrounding areas during remediation work.

The IDPH published its first notice of the proposed rule in the Illinois Register on Aug. 17, 2018 and is accepting public comment through Oct. 1, 2018. The citation for the Lead Poisoning Prevention Code is 77 Ill. Adm. Code 845.

˘ Not admitted to the practice of law