Efforts to combat childhood lead poisoning in Philadelphia have been boosted by $125,000 in state funding.
State Sen. Vincent Hughes announced that the funding was secured from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development on Thursday.
The Overbrook Environmental Education Center in West Philadelphia will receive a $35,000 grant to train 150 contractors on how to renovate old homes without creating lead hazards.
Philadelphia will receive $90,000 toward the city’s efforts to remediate lead in homes.
The lead crisis in Flint, where children were exposed to the toxin by drinking water, helped thrust the issue of lead poisoning back in the spotlight.
“The only thing good out of the lead crisis in Flint is that folks around the country started paying more attention to lead,” Hughes said. “It re-energized the public policy conversation that was around back in the 70s and early 80s.” Hughes cited state data showing there are 18 cites in Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, with higher lead level exposures than Flint.
The high levels are due to lead-based paints in Pennsylvania’s old housing stock that were built before 1978. “So what that means is that we’ve got to come up with a statewide response,” Hughes said.
He plans to introduce legislation next year that create a large funding source for at the state level to remediate housing stock contaminated by lead. Under the legislation, $250 million in state funding would be dedicated for lead-paint remediation efforts.
“We believe the state should establish a super fund and that super fund should attract dollars on the local and state level to address the issue of lead and be in the business of remediating lead as much as possible and in as many communities as possible, across the state of Pennsylvania,” he said.
According to an article reported on Vox.com, nearly 10 percent of the more than 140,000 children tested had levels of five or more micrograms per deciliter of lead in their blood. That level is the threshold the federal government uses to identify children with elevated blood levels. Lead poisoning could lead to lifelong learning and behavior problems.
Hughes announcement comes as Mayor Jim Kenney revealed a plan to prevent childhood lead poisoning in Philadelphia. Under the new plan, the 2012 law requiring landlords to certify that homes of children are lead safe or lead-free will be more vigorously enforced.
The plan expands outreach to families, inspections for lead in hardest-hit neighborhoods and streamlines the approach to remediation of home lead hazards in children found to have high lead levels.