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Housing Department Program Aims to Reduce Household Lead Hazards

October 29, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Katey Marseglia, 215-345-3842, kmarseglia@buckscounty.org

Aiming to raise awareness about the dangers of childhood lead exposure as well as local efforts to reduce lead levels in area homes, Bucks County is observing National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week through Oct. 31.

Lead poisoning is recognized as the leading preventable environmental threat to children in the United States and poses a significant threat to children in Bucks County, where a majority of homes were built prior to the 1978 ban on lead-based paint.

The Bucks County Department of Housing and Community Development has been taking on the issue through its Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control Program, funded by a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“As one of the nation’s oldest counties we in Bucks County have worked for years to ensure lead-based paint hazards are totally and completely removed from our homes,” said Diane Ellis-Marseglia, chair of the county Board of Commissioners. “This grant allows us to take the final giant step to creating long-term safe homes for our children – now and into the future.”

The commissioners publicly threw their support behind the program during their meeting last week, issuing a proclamation declaring Oct. 25 to 31 Lead Poisoning Prevention Week in Bucks County.

Accepting the proclamation was Katey Marseglia, who heads the Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control Program. 

“Even under newer layers of paint there can be lead paint hazards. Usually around windows and doors, if you see chalking, cracking or chipping paint, that’s a hazard that needs immediate attention,” Marseglia told the commissioners.

The program is designed to protect children under the age of 6 from exposure to lead-based paint. Through the program, qualifying Bucks County families can receive a full lead risk assessment of their homes, as well as an abatement plan and abatement services. Improvements to homes often include items such as new windows, doors, siding, trim, interior and exterior painting, porch repair, and other home safety measures.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no safe blood lead level in children. Even low levels can result in permanent brain damage, learning disabilities, behavioral problems and other serious health issues.

About 3.6 million American households have children under 6 years of age who live in homes with lead exposure hazards. The CDC says about 500,000 American children between the ages of 1 and 5 have blood lead levels greater than or equal to the level at which the agency recommends public health actions.

Even children who seem healthy may have dangerous levels of lead in their bodies, as lead poisoning often occurs with no obvious symptoms. Children are not exposed equally to lead, nor suffer its consequences in the same way. These disparities unduly burden minority families and low-income families and their communities.

Lead can be found inside and outside the home, including in water that travels through lead pipes or in soil around the house. However, the most common source of exposure is from lead-based paint, which was used in many homes built before 1978. Adults and children can get lead into their bodies by breathing in the lead dust (especially during activities such as renovations, repairs or painting) or by swallowing lead dust that settles in food, food preparation surfaces, floors, window sills, and other places, or eating paint chips or soil that contains lead.

Children under the age of 6 are most at risk of becoming lead poisoned because of how quickly their brains are developing. A simple blood test can detect elevated levels of lead. Talk to your child’s doctor if you are concerned about lead exposure.

National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

For more information on the Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Program, please visit www.buckscounty.org/buckslead or email hcd@buckscounty.org.