GOSHEN — A team that has been removing dangerous lead-based paint from homes in every corner of Elkhart County has enough funding to remediate 50 more houses before May 2015.
The Elkhart County Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes Program received a $2.5 million grant two years ago to get rid of lead paint from 140 homes by replacing window sills, door frames and other surfaces that are deteriorating and creating lead dust harmful to children. The grant also includes funding to help homeowners fix potential health hazards in their houses by repairing roofs, cleaning furnace ducts, removing mold and mildew, installing smoke detectors and more.
The grant expires next year, and program director Carrie Brunson said she is looking for more homes to work on. Not every house qualifies for the program, however. It is limited to homes built before 1978 owned by low-income families who are at or below 80 percent of the area’s median income. For example, a family of four must earn $44,250 or less to qualify for the program. The income limit has increased by about $2,000 since 2013, Brunson said. Homeowners pay up to 10 percent of the work, and the grant covers the rest.
Another important requirement is having at least one child under 6 years old living in the home or spending a significant amount of time there. Lead dust is potentially hazardous to young children. Long-term health problems can include learning disabilities, behavior problems, hearing loss, hyperactivity and in extreme cases, death.
Brunson said that most of the time when a child is exposed to dangerous levels of lead dust, it’s inside their home. But sometimes, she added, lead paint can be found on unexpected items like glazed pottery, toys, inexpensive imported home decor, antique furniture, candy and makeup. Parents occasionally come into contact with lead paint at work and bring the dust home on their clothing, she said.
“In 2013, there were seven children in Elkhart County diagnosed with lead poisoning,” Brunson said. “In 2007, there were over 40.”
The Elkhart County Health Department offers free lead poisoning tests for young children. Brunson urges parents to get their children tested, even if they don’t think their home has lead paint. She said parents whose kids previously tested for low levels of lead poisoning should get their children retested to make sure the levels of lead in their systems have not increased.
For more details about the county’s lead paint abatement program and applications, visit lead.elkhartcounty.com or call 971-4600. The health department can be reached at 523-2283.
Follow Elkhart Truth reporter Angelle Barbazon on Twitter at @tweetangelle.