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City of Pocatello applying for grant to reduce lead paint exposure risk

According to the Center for Disease Control, lead-based paint is the most common and most dangerous way for children to get lead poisoning.

Exposure to lead in the home can be an unseen problem. To help educate homeowners and lower that potential risk, the city of Pocatello is applying for a $1.5 million grant.

The city wants to be able to test homes and test lead levels in blood for possible exposure. The grant money would also be used for making improvements on home that are lead hazards.

The homes the city would look at are homes older than 1978. In that year, the use of lead-based paint in residential homes was banned. Before that, more than 38 million homes used it.

Any home older than 1978 could be at risk for lead exposure, and Pocatello has several homes that could fit that criteria.

“We have very old housing stock,” said Melanie Gygli, with neighborhood and community services in Pocatello. “Easily over half of our housing stock is older than ’78.”

But Gygli said that doesn’t mean all the homes would test positive for lead. It just means there is a potential for it.

“It’s not that we have been put on notice of any sort that we have a giant problem that we need to deal with,” Gygli said. “What we’re saying is that the potential is there and we would like to address it up front because lead poisoning, especially in little kids, can be very damaging to your health.”

In children, lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, nervous system damage, kidney damage, speech or behavior problems, poor muscle coordination, decreased bone and muscle growth, and hearing damage.

In adults, it can cause fertility problems or pregnancy complications, high blood pressure, digestive problems, nerve disorders, memory problems, and muscle or joint pain.

In any case where exposure is high or prolonged, lead can even be fatal.

Lead paint exposure is one of the most common forms, but lead can be found in dust, drinking water, soil or anything that contains particles of lead. It can get into a person’s system by breathing or swallowing any form.

The grant for Pocatello would rely on available federal funding. So Gygli said even if the city is approved, it coudl take several months to be up and running. So it would likely be either late summer or early fall before any work could be done. She said the city would begin outreach programs to those with older homes – it would be free of charge to homeowners to have an assessment done. It would also be optional – residents would not be forced to comply.

Since there are several forms of lead, there are some tips from the Environmental Protection Agency on how to protect your home:

-If you rent, notify landlords of peeling or chipping paint
-clean up paint chips immediately
-Clean floors, window frames, window sills and other surfaces weekly. Use warm water and an all-purpose cleaner with a sponge. Never mix ammonia and bleach products together because they could form a dangerous gas.
-Thoroughly rinse sponges or mops after cleaning dirty or rusty areas
-Wash children’s hands often, especially before they eat
-Keep play areas clean
-Keep children from chewing window sills or other painted surfaces, like old toys
-Clean or remove shoes before entering your home to avoid tracking in lead from soil
-Make sure children eat nutritious, low-fat meals high in iron and calcium. Children with good diets absorb less lead.
-Repair damaged surfaces or cover soil by planting grass to cover lead levels
-Hire a certified contractor to remove lead. Don’t try to remove it yourself
-Get your children tested for lead, even if they appear healthy
-Don’t use a belt-sander, propane torch, high temperature heat gun, scraper or sandpaper on painted surfaces that could contain lead

More resources are available at the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD or at its website.

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