WASHINGTON – Maryland officials said they will use a federal grant to turn lead paint abatement programs away from large apartment complexes, focusing instead on individual’s homes and small rental units.
The grants announced Friday by the Department of Housing and Urban Development will also fund a study to determine what hazards, if any, are posed by the demolition of old homes that may be laced with lead paint.
HUD awarded a total of $2.3 million for Maryland projects: $1 million to the state Department of Housing and Community Development, $1.17 million to the Kennedy Krieger Research Institute and $200,000 to the Baltimore City Health Department.
Maryland, one of 15 states to win a grant for lead control, will target its $1 million toward reducing lead hazards in about 150 owner-occupied and small rental units in 11 counties: Allegany, Baltimore, Caroline, Carroll, Cecil, Frederick, Harford, Kent, Montgomery, Washington and Wicomico.
“What we’ve targeted with previous HUD money has been the large apartment complexes,” said Ed McDonough of the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development.
“The difference this time is … we are focusing on the individual owner-occupied homes in less scattered, concentrated areas,” in the state, he said.
People in those areas will get training on removing paint and windows and incorporate it with housing rehabilitation and code enforcement.
“These are not necessarily ramshackle houses, they may be an owner-occupied Victorian home, but it can be very expensive sometimes to do [lead abatement],” McDonough said. “It’s very difficult to take 50 to 60 years of paint off a house and make it safe again and that’s what we are trying to do.”
Lead paint in older homes will also be the focus of the Kennedy Krieger research.
Baltimore, like many other older cities, is knocking down thousands of homes built before the federal government outlawed use of lead-based paint in 1978. Kennedy Krieger, which has studied lead for more than 20 years, plan to use its $1.17 million grant to determine if demolition could contaminate nearby homes.
“The issue is older houses are likely to have lead paint because it was widely used,” Dr. Mark Farfel, director of lead abatement research at Kennedy Krieger.
He said that while the removal of houses with higher lead levels is good, “we want to take measurements to see if the lead can be released into the environment and then tracked into other people’s homes.
“We want to facilitate urban redevelopment in ways that minimize lead exposure. If it’s a hazard, we want to develop strategies and work with the community,” Farfel said.
He said that lead levels are coming down nationally, but there are “islands of high lead exposure” in inner cities.
Farfel’s team will select a block of houses that will be demolished in East Baltimore and test the lead levels in a three- block radius before and after the demolition. The team will sample the air, the street, the sidewalk and entry doormats of homes in the area.
Kennedy Krieger will also study whether a 3-year-old Maryland law that requires property owners to have lead control treatments in all rental housing built before 1950. The study will look to see if the law has been effective.
The city will use its grant for a joint project between its Healthy Start program and the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning. The project will target pregnant women and parents of children under 6 with a media campaign aimed at prenatal prevention.
“It (lead poisoning) is entirely preventable but once a person has the effects, it’s irreversible,” said Ruth Ann Norton, executive director of the coalition.
“This is going to be more than simply scraping off paint,” Jim Kelly, spokesman of HUD’s Maryland office said about the new state efforts. “This will raise awareness and cause people to look at doing something in their own lives.”