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Enquirer wins records, shows health department let lead paint violations slide

Sharon Coolidge of The Cincinnati Enquirer won a two-year battle with the Cinncinnati Health Department to obtain records of properties cited for lead contamination violations.
Coolidge analyzed the city health records and found that "Cincinnati's Health Department is failng to force property owners to fix their buildings, leaving hundreds of children at risk for lead poisoning." The investigation revealed 300 open cases in which children had been poisoned. City officials pledged that property owners who refuse health department orders to clean up poisonous lead hazards will find themselves in court.

The original open records dispute went all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court, where the Enquirer won its case in March. The city originally had used HIPAA, a federal law designed to protect personal medical information, as a shield against turning over the records, arguing that the records could identify residents who had elevated lead levels in blood tests. The Supreme Court ruled that Ohio open records laws took precedence over HIPAA in this case.

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