BALTIMORE -- A Baltimore task force has called for a renewed attack on lead poisoning, warning that roughly a third of the city's children are threatened by lead paint present in most of the city's homes.

In a draft submitted to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, the 31-member task force urged the city to seek new state laws requiring disclosure, testing and ultimately abatement of lead paint in homes built before 1978.

"Baltimore aspires to be the 'City That Reads,' " the report says. "Yet 30,000 children under the age of 7 are finding their ability to read significantly impaired by lead poisoning."

The draft, presented to the mayor's office last summer, has yet to be released officially.

Landlords and real estate agents already are attacking it, though, warning that following its recommendations will cause an exodus from city homes.

The report proposes offering rent subsidies, deferred loans and tax credits to get landlords to remove or "abate" lead paint in low-income rental housing, where many of the worst poisoning cases occur, The (Baltimore) Evening Sun reported this week.

Schmoke, who appointed the task force, has not decided whether to accept the report. Elias Dorsey, acting city health commissioner, said most of its proposals are too costly or politically unfeasible to implement.

"The mayor wants doable {proposals}," Dorsey said.

Health advocates said the mayor's inaction raises questions about his commitment to the problem.

"There's just a real need to take a first step," said Anne Blumenberg, a director of the Coalition Against Childhood Lead Poisoning. "As it is now, people keep giving you 'Catch 22' stories that never get you off square one."

About 500 cases of lead poisoning were reported in Baltimore last year. Health experts say many more go undetected because only a fraction of at-risk children are tested.

The task force urges testing for all children, all pregnant women and workers who deal with lead products.

Children up to 6 years old are most vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can cause mental retardation, seizures and even death. The chief cause of poisoning is ingesting dust or flakes of indoor lead-based paint.

Lead paint has been banned for interior use since 1977, but Baltimore has 200,000 homes built before 1950, when lead paint was widely used.

Most poisonings are not severe enough for hospitalization, but low-level exposures can impair learning ability, lower intelligence and reduce the ability to concentrate.

The report says that relatively few property owners voluntarily remove lead paint because the cost often exceeds the value of rental homes in low-income neighborhoods.

The panel proposes a three-stage law that within one year would require warnings to prospective buyers of homes built before 1978. Inspection and testing of the dwelling would be required within three years. After 15 years, the lead hazard would have to be removed or contained before the house could be sold.

Joseph McGraw, government affairs director for the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors, contended that setting lead-testing or abatement requirements could have a "chilling effect" on homeownership.

Joseph Manfuso, a banker who was chairman of the task force's economic subcommittee, said eliminating lead hazards from older homes would increase their value, stimulating voluntary cleanups.

Dorsey says he plans to ask the panel for proposals the city can implement without increased spending. He pledged to launch a "huge public information campaign" to alert the public to lead poisoning.