City to house EPA lead-removal center UMAB awarded grant to train workers in detecting dangerous lead contamination.

March 10, 1992|By Sharyn Wizda | Sharyn Wizda,States News Service

WASHINGTON -- The University of Maryland at Baltimore has been tapped by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to house one of five regional centers that will train workers in lead contamination removal and detection.

EPA officials announced UMAB's selection yesterday.

The school has received a grant to run the center, which will open in July, in conjunction with the University of Cincinnati. Although specific figures are still being negotiated, each center's grant for the first year will be between $200,000 and $250,000, said Noah Brown, a spokesman for the National University Continuing Education Association (NUCEA).

NUCEA is awarding the grants in cooperation with the EPA.

The goal of the training centers is to establish a national network of professionals qualified to identify and control lead in residential paint, soil, dust and water, EPA spokesman Joseph Carra said.

Lead poisoning can delay neurological development in children and fetuses, leading to behavioral problems and lower IQs.

The other four regional centers will be located at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the University of Kansas in Lawrence, the University of California at San Diego and the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

The EPA created the centers as part of a concentrated effort that began more than a year ago to reduce lead exposure in children and adults. Over the past 25 years, the agency has steadily reduced the level of lead exposure it deems acceptable as more information became available about lead's effects, and officials are considering slashing the current limit by more than half this year, Mr. Carra said.

Although laws passed in the 1970s forbade paint manufacturers to use lead in paint made for home use, many industrial paints still contain lead. As a result, construction workers repainting bridges or sandblasting paint off buildings are often exposed to as much as 10,000 times the legal limit of lead fumes and dust, according to David Jacobs, director of the Georgia regional center.

And despite the laws eliminating lead from paint used in homes, 74 percent of homes built before 1980 contain some leaded paint, Mr. Carra said.

Children are most susceptible to lead poisoning in the home because they are more likely to be near the floor, where lead dust collects.

Once trained, workers from the center will help local residents determine whether their homes contain lead paint or lead pipes that could affect drinking water. They will also offer solutions for cleanup.

"For example, workers could tell homeowners if they have lead pipes, they should let the [tap] water run if it's been standing for more than six hours," Mr. Carra said.

The UMAB training center will be developed in collaboration with Baltimore-based Leadtec Training Services and the Baltimore Jobs and Energy Project, two local groups active in the prevention of lead poisoning.

UMAB's training center is the primary facility in the region, but there will be a network of independent facilities throughout the region served, from Pennsylvania to the north to Virginia to the south and Illinois to the west.

After a pilot run at the Baltimore site, the EPA's training curriculum will be reviewed by center staff, independent consultants and representatives from the Baltimore Jobs and Energy Project before teams are brought from participating network facilities for an intensive week-long session.

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