Cincinnati Health Department has $1M to help remove lead from low-income residents' homes

'Words cannot express my gratitude'

CINCINNATI -- Andrea Famble wasn't sure how she ever would be able to replace all the deteriorating windows in the two-family building where she lives and operates an in-home daycare.

Then a friend suggested that a Cincinnati Health Department program designed to make old homes safe from lead might be able to help.

Famble called, and city inspectors soon discovered lead paint throughout the exterior of her Avondale home, helping Famble qualify for the city's CLOSE Lead Hazard Control Program. Based on her income, she will have to pay only $2,472.75 to get 33 new windows, new porch railings, indoor-outdoor carpeting on her second-story porch and all the lead paint around her doors remediated, too.

Not only is the program covering all but that small fraction of the total cost of the work, it also is removing a health hazard from Famble's home that she didn't even know was there.

Chipping paint at Famble's home.

"I wanted to hug every last one of them," she said. "Words cannot express my gratitude."

Now Famble is recommending the city program to everyone she knows, and it's a good thing. The city still has more than $1 million in federal funds available to help make Cincinnati homes safe, and it's looking for more people to take advantage of the program. The city must use the grant funds by the end of the year and is encouraging people to apply by October.

"Lead poisoning is the number one environmental disease in children," said Cynthia McCarthy, a senior sanitarian with the Cincinnati Health Department who also manages the lead program. "We're hoping that (people) will do like Andrea did and apply for funding before a child gets lead poisoned."

'Entirely preventable'

Lead poisoning can cause brain damage in children and lead to lower IQs. It also can cause learning disabilities and behavioral problems, and McCarthy noted that a recent study linked childhood lead poisoning to adult criminal behavior.

"It's entirely preventable," McCarthy said. "We're trying to make it so no child ever becomes lead poisoned."

The common concern used to be that children would eat chips of lead paint because they taste sweet. But McCarthy said the bigger danger is dust contaminated with lead.

That's because children can get contaminated dust on their hands and then put their hands in their mouths.

A health inspector takes a dust sample during a mock inspection.

Lead paint was used residentially until 1978 so any homes built before then could have lead paint, McCarthy said.

It's impossible to know if anything -- or anyone -- is contaminated with lead without getting a test to determine it.

The health department recommends assuming that paint on older homes contains lead until it can be tested. And Ohio law requires that children's blood be tested for lead contamination when they are 1 and 2 years old, McCarthy said.

As part of the CLOSE Lead Hazard Control Program, city inspectors also tested the soil in Famble's yard. And people who qualify for the program also get a Healthy Homes Assessment free of charge that looks at 29 other housing hazards, such as dampness, mold, trip hazards and electrical hazards.

Famble's home in Avondale.

Famble said she thought the lead paint on her home was removed years ago when she had her windows painted. But she learned from the health department that most painters simply cover over the old lead paint, which isn't a permanent solution.

Famble said she can now rest easier knowing that her home is getting the improvements it needs and that the children in her care will be safe from a hazard she thought was long gone.

"That eased a lot of issues," she said.

Famble with some of the children she watches at her home daycare.

More information about the CLOSE Lead Hazard Control Program is available online or by calling (513) 357-7420.

 

Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. Childhood poverty is an important focus for her and for WCPO. To read more stories about childhood poverty, go to www.wcpo.com/poverty.

To read more stories by Lucy, go to www.wcpo.com/may. To reach her, email lucy.may@wcpo.com. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.

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