A developer in Washington, D.C. recently faced his sentencing for actions violating the Toxic Substances Control Act during a renovation. The EPA-backed rule lays out safety measures to be followed by anyone performing certain renovations in buildings constructed before 1978. Mohammad Sikder, owner of District Properties, LLC, both flaunted these regulations and directed others to lie to cover up his wrongdoing.
In the days before its toxicity was fully understood, lead formed the base of many paints. Older buildings may still have a coating of this dangerous element. When repairs or renovations displace this paint, workers may come into contact with lead and/or release lead dust into the air. This endangers anyone at the worksite. Contamination may even persist after the construction is complete.
To reduce the likelihood of injury, developers must report properties that may have lead paint and take action to keep workers safe. Mohammad Sikder, who was caught violating these rules, recently pled guilty to:
- Falsifying permit information to conceal building age
- Employing uncertified workers
- Failing to follow processes that decrease the risk of lead contamination
- Failing to assess worker exposure to lead
- Using improper sanitation practices (and thereby causing extensive contamination)
- Failing to advise the building’s buyers of potential lead exposure on the property
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An investigation of the job site showed the ramifications of Mr. Sikder’s choice to bypass safety practices: Lead was found both on dump trucks used to remove items and on workers’ hands. Though lead poisoning is more harmful to children, adults can also experience ill effects if the element builds up in their blood. Studies have found links between higher lead concentrations and increases in high blood pressure, fatalities from heart disease, and kidney damage. Further, working parents could unknowingly bring lead home with them, resulting in secondhand exposure for their families.
Lead-based paints present the highest risk for childhood exposures, as kids may ingest small paint chips or contaminated dust anywhere in their home. Even small amounts of lead can cause cognitive damage, resulting in conditions that range from ADD to coma. Failing to inform others about the risk of lead poisoning inherent to older buildings is not just irresponsible—it can change their lives forever.
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Mr. Sikder was sentenced to 60 days in jail, 300 hours of community service, and $50,000 in fines for creating an unsafe work environment. District Properties, LLC will have to pay an additional $150,000 and serve a probationary period in punishment for falsifying information on 25 building permits.
We are glad to see the EPA and the courts vigorously enforcing safety rules, though the verdict does not include relief for the workers and families affected by Mr. Sikder’s deceitful practices. They may be able to receive an individual remedy by filing a personal injury lawsuit.
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Ashcraft & Gerel is committed to defending our community against negligent or wrongful behaviors, and we’ll take a fight all the way to court if necessary. Our tenacity has won over $1 billion for clients over 7 decades of advocacy. If you think you may have a lead poisoning case, reach out to our team to learn your legal options.
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