JAMESTOWN – The Jamestown City Council is looking into ways to leverage federal money to help address the ongoing problem of lead paint in homes throughout the community.
On Monday night the council’s Housing Committee had a member of the Chautauqua County Department of Health on hand to present and discuss the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.
According to information provided on Monday night, Jamestown ranks eighth in the state for childhood lead poisoning, with 40 percent of children in Jamestown having an elevated lead level.
The council learned that the county does have lead abatement funding available via a federal HUD lead hazard control grant.
The program provides assistance to repair lead-based paint hazards in rental properties. It is a county-wide program for properties occupied by income-eligible tenants who have children under the age of 6. Landlords are also only responsible for 20 percent of abatement costs.
“Their program inspects any apartment or privately owned homes built before 1978. If residents have children 6 years of age or under, the county will give the occupants free cleaning supplies, smoke detectors, and carbon monoxide detectors just for letting them in to do testing,” Housing Committee Chairwoman Vicki James explained. “If they find lead, they teach the homeowners how to address it properly and give them $300 in supplies to address the problem.”
James said for rental properties, things are more complicated, although much of the abatement costs is still covered by federal grant funding.
“The federal government requires landlords to attend an EPA renovation, repair, and paint class, which the county will pay for at a cost of (at $160) and anyone who works on a building that has lead paint, inside or out, is required to have certification under federal law,” James said. “It’s also required that if they disturb a wall with lead paint, they are required to do plumbing, electrical, and any other repairs or modifications, although the landlord will only have to cover 20 percent of the total cost.”
James also said that according to a county health department spokesperson, some landlords are warning their tenants not to allow health officials in to test for lead.
“She said the landlords are warning tenants not to let them in and if there is anything we can suggest to help them get into the apartments it would be greatly appreciated,” said James.
“We can’t have 40 percent of our youth with elevated and sustained lead levels,” added councilwoman and housing committee member Vanessa Weinert. “If they are exposed and we’re able to abate and do whatever it is we need to do, then we won’t see these long lasting effects. There are studies out there that show kids who have sustained lead levels and the results are devastating.”
According to the CDC, Lead exposure can affect nearly every system in the body, produces no obvious symptoms, and frequently goes unrecognized, potentially leading to serious health issues. Lead poisoning is particularly dangerous to infants and young children. Some adults are also at risk for lead exposure, including those who work around products or materials that contain lead.
The grant at the County Health Department is still active through the end of the year and city council members said it may be worth reaching out to landlords and tenants alike to make sure they are aware the program exists and see if they qualify.
To learn more, contact the county department of health or visit the Lead Poisoning & Prevention page on the county website.