Lead Threatens Residents

From: Robina Suwol
Date: 29 Sep 2002
Time: 15:29:55
Remote Name: 24.28.136.51

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From the Birmingham (AL) Post-Herald, Sept. 20, 2002
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Lead Threatens Residents

Disorders traced to paint in many older domiciles

By MARY KUEHNER
SPECIAL TO THE POST-HERALD

Alice Moore just wanted a fresh coat of paint for her Fulton Avenue house near Titusville.

What she got, with the help of a federally funded program, was the knowledge many in her situation lack: Her house was coated with lead-based paint, and that it had poisoned her three children.

Moore first called the city of Birmingham to get house painting help with the Paint for Pride program, but after inspectors found lead paint throughout the house, Moore, 33, was referred to the Citizens Lead Education and Poisoning Prevention program. The program and an initiative of the UAB School of Public Health, the Healthy Homes program, are designed to aid children living in low-income housing in targeted areas of Birmingham.

Aided by an $850,000 three-year grant, the goal is to eliminate health hazards in more than 115 homes in West End, Woodlawn and Brighton-Lipscomb. While CLEPP targets lead poisoning, the Healthy Home program will help eliminate other safety hazards from the home, such as mold, or structural problems, such as electrical hazards. Local residents will be trained to educate their neighbors in spotting problems like lead paint or mold, officials said.

Moore said after contacting the Birmingham-run CLEPP, inspectors checked her home, and told her it was "full of lead," she said.

"You hear on the news about all the death and crime, but with something like this, right in your home, nobody says anything until it's too late," said Moore, whose children, Joshua Epps, 12, Jessica Epps, 9, and Warren Moore Jr., 2, all tested far above the dangerous levels for lead poisoning. "People need to know about this," she said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers a lead level of 10 micrograms per decileter of blood in children to be damaging. Joshua registered 38, Jessica 31 and Warren 27, Moore said.

Moore said her children all have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a condition Moore believes is linked to lead poisoning. All are being treated for lead poisoning, she said.

Whitlynn Battle, executive director of CLEPP, said lead poisoning in some Birmingham neighborhoods is a major problem.

"Many children living in low-income housing suffer permanent learning and other disabilities as a result of lead," Battle said in a statement.

Older homes like Moore's are typical for lead poisoning, Battle said. They were built before 1978 in neighborhoods that were once affluent but have changed into predominantly low income, she said.

More than 80 percent of American homes built before 1978 have lead-based paint, and most of these families have no idea until they attempt to remodel, Battle said. Sometimes they learn of the problem when their children fall ill, she said.

Nationally, about 27 percent of children living in older, low-income communities are considered lead-poisoned, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And lead poisoning affects an estimated 890,000 American preschoolers, meaning about 4.4 percent of children ages 1 to 5 have too much lead in their bodies, the CDC reported.

Beyond inspecting homes, Battle and others are hoping a home hazards education program will help spread the word about lead contamination and other potential problems.

Ken Dillon, associate professor of health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said its first class of environmentalists graduated from the program, all women living in the targeted problem areas.

"Our environmentalists are community residents trained to conduct home assessments, and develop plans to reduce hazards," Dillon said. "We now have five graduates, the first of 17 we plan to recruit and train."

The environmentalists report once a week with a list of houses that need repairs.

For now, Moore and her family are living in the same home, but plan to move to a "safe" house being purchased by the CLEPP organization. When renovated, Moore's house will be lead and other hazard free, and Moore and her
family will move back in.

Lead poisoning

For more information, contact:
Citizens Lead Education and Poisoning Prevention program 780-8077
Healthy Homes Initiative 934-8488