9/24/2019 — 

PROVIDENCE, RI - Childhood lead poisoning is considered the most preventable environmental disease of young children and lead dust particles and chips of lead paint are the biggest sources of lead poisoning for children in many homes across the state.  Now, RIHousing has won a new federal grant created by U.S. Senator Jack Reed to eradicate lead paint from homes in Central Falls, Pawtucket, and other communities with older housing stock.

RIHousing will receive $7,841,160 from the High Impact Neighborhoods Demonstration, a new grant program designed by Senator Reed.  High impact neighborhoods are areas with high concentrations of both pre-1940 housing, low-income families, and high rates of young children with elevated blood lead levels.

The non-profit RIHousing will also receive $599,800 in Healthy Homes Initiative (HHI) funds to help eliminate dangerous lead paint and other housing-related health hazards.  The federal funding will be targeted to areas of greatest need, including Central Falls and Pawtucket, and may be used to help clean up lead and other health hazards in the home; train workers in lead safety methods; and increase public awareness about childhood lead poisoning.  The HHI funds may be used to protect families from home safety issues such as mold, radon exposure, electrical hazards, and carbon monoxide problems.

The federal funds for both programs are administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Developments (HUD).

“I created this grant program because every child deserves a safe and healthy home.  Lead poisoning is a preventable tragedy and these federal funds will help residents safely remove lead-based paint and other hazards that may be present in their home.  I am pleased RIHousing was chosen as one of the first major recipients of the High Impact Neighborhoods Demonstration, and I hope they can lead the way in eliminating lead-based paint hazards, protecting at-risk children and families, and saving taxpayers.  There are simple steps we can take to prevent permanent damage from lead poisoning that could last a lifetime, but it takes real resources and collective commitment to get the job done,” said Senator Reed¸ the Ranking Member of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittee, who secured $319 million for these lead grants nationwide and supported RIHousing’s application.

Senator Reed created the High Impact Neighborhoods Demonstration in 2018 to address lead abatement and examine the effectiveness of intensive multi-year investments in lead-based paint remediation activities in low-income communities.  The program aims to reduce the per unit cost of lead-based paint remediation by creating greater economies of scale and lowering grantees’ administrative expenses.

“At RIHousing we strive to improve the lives of Rhode Islanders by helping them buy, rent and keep a healthy home,” said Carol Ventura, Executive Director of RIHousing. “Together, thanks to Senator Reed’s leadership, we will be able to significantly lessen the number of families in Central Falls and Pawtucket affected by dangerous lead in the home.”

RIHousing is one of seven grantees nationwide selected to lead in the new High Impact Neighborhoods Demonstration initiative.  Senator Reed included an additional $64 million for the program in the 2020 THUD bill that was approved last week by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

According to HUD, 70 percent of lead poisoning cases in the United States are the result of exposure to lead-based paint hazards in the home.  This exposure usually stems from the presence of lead-based paint in homes built prior to 1978 as lead was commonly used in household paint at that time to increase its durability.  In 1978, Congress banned the use of lead in paint for residential use.  According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, an estimated 80% of Rhode Island homes were built before 1978 and likely contain lead-based paint, which is the most common source of lead exposure to children in Rhode Island.

Lead poisoning disproportionately affects the lives of children from economically-disadvantaged backgrounds and can have lifelong, irreversible consequences, including severely inhibiting healthy development and compromising learning ability.  According to the CDC, children in at least four million U.S. households are exposed to high levels of lead.  Children who are exposed to lead hazards are seven times more likely to drop out of school and six times more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system.

The CDC estimates that 535,000 American children under six years of age are affected by lead poisoning.  According to the latest Rhode Island KIDS COUNT Factbook, of the 10,934 Rhode Island children entering kindergarten in 2020 who were tested for lead poisoning, 662 (6.1 percent) had confirmed elevated blood lead levels of ≥5 µg/dL.  

To learn more about protecting children against the dangers of lead in the home, visit: http://www.leadsafekids.org