City anti-lead program wins $5.2 million in grants

September 28, 2004|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's lead poisoning prevention program has received a total of $5.2 million in federal and state grants to remove lead hazards from 120 residences, with priority going to those with sick children living in them.

The federal award -- worth $4 million -- was announced yesterday by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. As a condition of the award, the state will contribute $1.2 million, according to a HUD spokesman in Baltimore.

The money will go to the city's Lead Poisoning Initiative, which Mayor Martin O'Malley launched in January 2000. Since then, 621 homes have been made safe to live in, and the number of poisoning incidents has dropped by 61 percent, according to the city Health Department's Web site. Children who ingest lead paint can develop neurological problems.

Despite such progress, about 600 cases of lead poisoning were reported in the city last year, according to the Web site.

The city still has a long list of homes where lead needs to be cleaned up, said Ruth Ann Norton, executive director of the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning. Most houses in the city were built before 1951, when lead paint was banned.

"We hear daily from people who have tried to get grants from the city to clean up lead paint, and the city has said they don't have the money," said Norton, who called the grant awards a "godsend."

"We hope that this will help to speed up the process because it is taking far too long," she said. "It is important to keep this program going."

A HUD spokesman said that even though competition for the grants was intense, the city received $1.4 million more than the year before.

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