Cheaper way to reduce lead tried Program uses stripping, repainting, rather than ripping out home's walls

June 25, 1996|By Kaana Smith | Kaana Smith,SUN STAFF

TC In an effort to reduce toxic lead dust in homes, the University of Maryland Baltimore County helped launch yesterday a project in East Baltimore to demonstrate a cheaper way of making houses safer.

Project coordinators began with a home owned by landlord Doris Sheckells at 415 Milton Ave. near Patterson Park.

They scraped paint from walls inside and out of the brick rowhouse. They repaired window sills and door frames to prevent paint from chipping and becoming airborne. Finally, they cleaned the stripped areas and repainted.

This technique -- dubbed lead hazard reduction -- is less expensive than the traditional lead abatement process, which requires tearing down walls and starting from scratch when there is evidence of deteriorated or flaking paint.

The university's Shriver Center is teaming up with AmeriCorps, a program of the Corporation for National Service, and the National Paint and Coatings Association to carry out the project, called the Community Lead Education and Reduction Corps (CLEARCorps).

The goal is to clean up 100 to 200 city homes in a year. Organizers also want to educate parents and residents on how to reduce lead risk.

According to project coordinators, this technique will save homeowners and landlords thousands of dollars. The cost of cleaning up Sheckells' home, $1,200, is far less than the $10,000 to $12,000 cost of traditional abatement.

Making clean-ups cheaper will encourage owners and landlords to do the work rather than sell or abandon properties, project organizers say.

An estimated 9,600 homes are already vacant in the city, according to the city's housing department.

Evidence of this technique's effectiveness won't be known until long-term testing is done on the houses six months to one year after they're cleaned up.

Ruth Ann Norton, executive director of the Coalition Against Childhood Lead Poisoning, is unsure of the technique's effectiveness. But she said the effort could encourage more residents and landlords to address the problem.

"If we're able to do work in more houses, then we're able to make some kind of progress," she said, stressing the importance of educating people about lead. "Most parents don't know about it until after their child is poisoned."

Over the next year, members of the CLEARCorps project also will be fixing homes in Minneapolis and Charleston, S.C. All three cities were chosen partly because they have many older homes and high numbers of lead-poisoning cases.

Baltimore ranks second in the nation in the number of reported cases, and most of these are concentrated in East Baltimore, Norton said.

Pub Date: 6/25/96

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