MILWAUKEE - Every year, doctors must inform parents that their children have been poisoned by lead, sometimes from exposure to lead-based paint hazards in their own homes. While the number of lead-poisoned children has dropped dramatically in the past decade, thousands of families continue to struggle with a variety of health effects from a disease that is entirely preventable.
In an effort to end childhood lead poisoning by 2010, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is accelerating its efforts to help communities make housing safer by hosting a national housing summit for local health and housing officials from around the nation. Among those attending the two-day Safe and Healthy Homes Communities Meeting that begins today are Vivian Chen, Health Operations Director, Milwaukee Health Department and Amy Murphy, Division Manager, HEH, City of Milwaukee Health Department.
"Ending childhood lead poisoning is a mission we take very seriously," said Joseph P. Galvan HUD Regional Director for the Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin). "We hope to share important and effective strategies with our local partners so that together, we can resign lead paint poisoning to the history books once and for all."
During the Washington conference, officials from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will join HUD representatives to share innovative cleanup and enforcement strategies with local housing and health leaders. In addition, model programs from around the country will make presentations to inform other communities about ways to develop greater capacity in their lead hazard control efforts.
Recently, HUD awarded $168 million in funding to 72 local projects in 28 states and the District of Columbia. This funding will create thousands of healthier homes by:
Removing potentially dangerous lead from lower income homes;
Stimulating private sector investment in lead hazard control;
Educating the public about the dangers of lead-based paint;
Funding model programs promoting healthier and safer home environments; and,
- Supporting scientific research into innovative methods of identifying and eliminating health hazards in housing.
Background on Health Effects of Lead-Based Paint
Lead exposure causes reduced IQ, learning disabilities, developmental delays, reduced height, impaired hearing and a host of other health problems in young children. Children are at the greatest risk of lead poisoning because their hand-to-mouth activities allows them to ingest lead dust, the most common exposure pathway into the body. Studies indicate that low-income, inner-city children suffer disproportionately from elevated blood-lead levels because they live in older, distressed housing with deteriorated paint and high levels of lead dust. Nearly 450,000 of the nation's 22 million children under the age of six have blood-lead levels high enough to impair their ability to think, concentrate and learn.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the percentage of children with elevated blood lead levels has been cut in half since the early 1990's, although the prevalence of childhood lead poisoning in low-income, unassisted older housing remains high. In fact, one in six low-income children living in older housing is believed to be lead poisoned. HUD estimates that the number of houses with lead paint has declined from 64 million in 1990 to 38 million in 2000. Eliminating lead-based paint hazards in older low-income housing is essential if childhood lead poisoning is to be eradicated.
HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development as well as enforces the nation’s fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov and espanol.hud.gov.