Tucson receives $2.4M grant to get the lead out
HUD funds will help low-income familes reduce lead exposure
Tucson has received a $2.4 million dollar grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to help reduce or eliminate lead exposure in more than 200 homes in the next three years.
The grant, announced by HUD on Friday, will be combined with contributions from other organizations to fund the $4.2 million program. The grant is part of a larger initiative to eliminate childhood lead poisoning by 2020.
The program will serve low-income and very low-income families who live inside the city limits. Residents and tenants with children under 6 years old who live in houses built before 1978 will be able to apply for a lead paint and hazard inspection and a lead blood level screening for children.
Lead poisoning adversely affects almost every organ, especially in youth. Children under age 6 have suffered severe brain and nervous system damage and death as a result of high blood lead levels, according to the Arizona’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Targeted Screening Plan.
Eligible applicants for the Tucson program will receive an average of $8,400 to help eliminate lead in their household, which can entail replacing everything from door and window frames to tile and counter tops.
“Flooring is often a problem, if you have old tile floors, they tend to get worn down,” said Tom Ingram of the city’s Community Development Division.
"If there’s lead in the tile, then that becomes dust," he said.
The fine particles coat the hands of small children who spend majority of their time walking or crawling on the floors.
“I’ve got four kids, I know where my kids hands went all the time when they were little, that was in their mouth,” Ingram said. Ingestion is the number one form of lead poisoning in children, he added.
Often, if a house needs other repairs like a new roof, furnace or air conditioning system, the Tucson Housing Rehabilitation Collaborative will connect the owner with another organization to provide that service, Ingram said. The collaborative is made up of several government and nonprofit agencies that focus on home improvement for low-income families.
"We could use 25 times the funding that’s for sure," Ingram said.
"It’s still a chronic problem, but we do whatever we can locally."
About 0.1 percent of children screened in Pima County had elevated blood lead levels in 2007, according to the most current survey from the Centers for Disease Control. Gila County had Arizona's highest percentage of elevated blood lead levels which ranged from 0.8 to 1.1 percent. At most, only 8.5 percent of children 472 months or younger were screened.
In the same year, 0.24 percent of the children screened in Arizona tested for elevated blood lead levels in a Centers for Disease Control survey. However, less than 7 percent of the state’s total population of children younger than 6 years old were screened.
To apply or request information about the program, call Ray Quihuis at 837-5336.