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City receives grant to help eliminate lead hazards at Waco homes

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Posted at 7:59 PM, Dec 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-22 14:41:06-05

A grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will help the city eliminate lead hazards at some Waco homes.

The $1.5 million over three years will go toward testing homes and removing lead paint from homes built before 1978, which was the year that lead paint was banned in housing.

Waco-McLennan County Public Health District Spokeswoman Kelly Craine said in the city there are 24,459 homes built before 1980.

"To make all of us healthier is to look at the source is to find that source and to stop that source," Craine said.

In 2016, some McLennan County children had elevated blood lead levels, which were higher than the state average. Back then, the zip code with the most cases was 76707, which had 10 percent of children between the ages of 1 and 5 testing at an elevated blood level of five and above.

Other zip codes in Waco with a high number of cases included 76704, 76706 and 76708.

Ernest Hernandez who lives in the 76708 zip code and has a 9-year-old son and found out about this trend on Friday.

"I'm surprised the issue was not addressed earlier," Hernandez said.

He worries about his son potentially being exposed to lead in the older home they live in.

"I would like to take my son to the doctor and check if he has high levels of lead in the system. If he does, I know we have lead in the house," Hernandez said.

The city approved an ordinance that would allow the health district to intervene if the child is at a level five. At a level 10 or higher, the health district may also advise the property owner to pursue an environmental lead investigation.

However, the grant will give the health district to remediate the issue.

"We can find the older homes and we can also find children who have high blood lead levels and start working where they live and make sure their home is safe," Craine said.

She added exposure to lead can become a serious issue for children.

"Children with high lead toxicities struggle in school. They struggle with the management of their emotions. They can be very emotional. They can get into trouble," Craine said.

Hernandez is glad there is money on the way to help with the problem.

"It's good the grant is coming to help people with lead removal," Hernandez said.

The grant is expected to help 140 families. To apply for the program someone must live in an older home and have a resident who is a pregnant woman or child under the age of five. The homes of children who have tested positive for high lead blood levels can also be eligible for the program.

Next month, the health district will start training on how to implement the program, which will be implemented in March. 

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