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    Lead poisoning is one of America’s leading preventable environmental health threats to children

    (New Haven, CT) The New Haven Health Department’s Bureau of Environmental Health will team up with area businesses to host the 15th annual Don’t Spread Lead campaign on Friday, May 10, 2013 at Painter’s Supply in New Haven; on Friday, May 24, 2013 at Grand Paint & Floor Covering, 451 Grand Avenue, New Haven; and Saturday, May 25, 2013 at Harbor Freight Tools, 84 Whalley Avenue, New Haven. At these events, the local businesses will open their doors to childhood lead poisoning educators and provide the perfect venue to reach homeowners, contractors and parents. This community event is just one part of New Haven’s Don’t Spread Lead Campaign – an effort designed to raise awareness in the community about childhood lead poisoning prevention by educating about lead-safe renovation practices. Paul Kowalski, the New Haven Health Department’s Environmental Health Director, will join other City health officials to provide lead poisoning prevention information to teach homeowners, contractors and parents how to reduce the risks of this serious, yet preventable illness.

    “The need for lead awareness and education within our communities cannot be overstated,” said Kowalski. “Children and parents who are informed about the threat of lead are more likely to take steps in their own homes to help prevent lead poisoning. These Don’t Spread Lead events are one of the city’s several efforts to help educate our families.”

    In addition to the Don’t Spread Lead Campaign, the City of New Haven has received funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide loans to undertake lead hazard control activities in private housing units. This funding will be made available to assist income qualified families with lead hazard control work, which will in turn provide lead safe housing for families with children.

    Applications are now being accepted from property owners for 0% deferred loans to assist with the eradication of lead hazards. These deferred loans are completely forgiven after five years; therefore, borrowers are cleared of any financial obligation. Information about these loans will be made available at all Don’t Spread Lead events. Residents who are interested in learning about this funding should contact Jennifer Sanjurjo of the New Haven Health Department's, Bureau of Environmental Health at 203-946-7420.

    Children living in homes built before 1978 are at risk for exposure to lead through deteriorated paint, dust and soil that has been contaminated with lead from old paint and past emissions of leaded gasoline. The majority of New Haven’s lead poisoning cases are concentrated in the Fair Haven, Hill, Newhallville and Dixwell neighborhoods where the afflicted children live predominantly in rental housing units. According to Kowalski, “Over the past 10 years, largely due to a collaboration of concerned citizens, which includes parents, homeowners, health care providers, teachers and others, the number of New Haven children identified with lead poisoning has declined 72 percent; from 371 children reported in 2003 to 103 children in 2012. Moreover, through New Haven’s U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funded program, more than 1125 homes have been lead abated. However, there are still hundreds of homes in the area that are in need of renovations in a lead safe way.”

    There are no detectable symptoms for lead poisoning. Children often appear healthy, while dangerously high blood lead levels rob them of their learning potential and cause irreversible neurological damage. Lead poisoning can cause developmental delays, behavioral problems, and at very high levels, seizures, coma and even death.

    The Don’t Spread Lead Campaign was designed in 1998 to inform the New England communities about the need to renovate properties that pose lead hazards. There is a high correlation between old housing (pre-1978), low income, inner city residence and elevated blood lead levels in children. Also, in April 2010, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created a new Lead-Based Paint Rule called the Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP). RRP requires that firms performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb more than six square feet of lead-based paint in pre-1978 homes, child care facilities and schools be certified by the EPA and that they use certified renovators who are trained by EPA-approved training providers to follow lead-safe work practices.

    “Though we have seen an overall decline in lead poisoning cases in New Haven in recent years,” said Kowalski, “many New Haven residents are still unaware of this entirely preventable problem. Although local efforts have resulted in a decrease in numbers, there were greater than 103 children reported with elevated blood lead levels greater than 10ug/dL in New Haven in the past year.”

    Homeowners, contractors and families who visit Painter’s Supply, Grand Paint & Floor Covering and Harbor Freight Tools will be provided refreshments, coloring books with lead-safe tips, tee shirts and other educational materials highlighting lead issues and encouraging lead prevention. Lead inspectors will be on-site to answer individual questions.

    The Health Department’s Bureau of Environmental Health initiates lead safety awareness and education programs throughout the year, in addition to their regular lead inspection and assessment duties. The Bureau’s Lead Inspectors speak to area children and parents about the importance of lead safety and make presentations at local health fairs. If you would like additional information on lead poisoning prevention initiatives in New Haven, please contact the New Haven Health Department's Bureau of Environmental Health at (203) 946-8174.

    The Don’t Spread Lead educational events were made possible with the assistance of the New England Lead Coordinating Committee, the State of Connecticut Department of Public Health and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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