Missouri Lead Poisoning
October 9, 2003
ST LOUIS—While the city’s lead prevention programs will receive a boost from the department of Housing and Urban Development in the form of a $2.6 million award intended for lead education and clean-up. But a recent study by the St. Louis Lead Commission claims that the funds may not be enough to tackle a lead epidemic that is one of the worst in the nation.
According to Judy Riehl, executive director of the St. Louis Lead Coalition, the city’s approach to the lead problem has not historically been ideal.
“St. Louis’ clean-up programs have been using children as lead detectors, and have only started treating lead in homes after children have been diagnosed with lead poisoning in their blood,” Riehl said. “Children will only be safe when a program is put in place that deals with cleaning and ridding lead that is already in city homes.”
St. Louis has three agencies that run lead-prevention programs: the department of health, the building division, and the Community Development Association. The Lead Coalition recommends combining the three agencies into one entity, with the money and authority to rid homes of lead.
More than 140,000 housing units in St. Louis are contaminated with lead paint, according to the health department, and the problem is worse than it was when the lead prevention programs were implemented thirty years ago. In 2000, 31 percent of the tested children under age six in St. Louis suffered from lead poisoning; the highest rates of new cases are clustered in the African-American community.
Ridding homes of lead paint and windows can be very expensive, and the city has yet to sufficiently address this issue with property owners, according to critics. The Urban League and many neighborhood associations offer funds and small grants for home repair, and last week legislation was introduced that would provide a tax credit of $1,500 for lead cleanup by property owners. Many homeowners, however say that they need the money upfront to remove the lead, because they cannot afford the costs.
ST LOUIS- City officials announced the receipt of a $2.6 million grant to fight the city’s problem with lead paint poisoning. Missouri Senator Christopher “Kit” Bond subsequently challenged St. Louis to eliminate lead poisoning by the year 2010.
The announcement came at a news conference Friday at City Hall, where city officials said that St. Louis would add $1.7 million to the grant received from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Bond, R-Mo., said “the good news” was the infusion of new grant money to help combat lead poisoning. “The bad news is that $4 million is not enough—by a long shot. The honest truth is that generations of children in St. Louis are being poisoned over and over again by lead paint. And we have not done enough.”
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay agrees that the city must to more to fight lead poisoning. In an attempt to improve results, he has brought in a national expert to help the city plan a new approach.
Lead paint was banned from use indoors in 1978, but much of the housing in St. Louis was built prior to the ban. Flakes and dust from lead paint are the main source of childhood lead poisoning.
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