BOSTON – Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced today that the City of Boston has received $4.3 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to further reduce the risk of childhood lead poisoning in Boston. The announcement comes during National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, which seeks to raise awareness of lead poisoning prevention and reduce childhood exposure to lead.
“This funding award is a great affirmation of our lead abatement work, and will support our efforts in providing safe and accessible homes to all Bostonians,” said Mayor Walsh. “Despite being a city with older housing stock, we continue to make great progress in the reduction of lead in Boston homes. This new funding will help us to make more homes safe and healthy for our families.”
The $4.3 million awarded to Boston’s “Lead Safe” program will address lead hazards in more than 300 housing units, providing safer homes for families with low incomes. Grant funds will be used to work with homeowners and landlords with income-eligible tenants to make homes lead safe by providing fully forgivable loans to complete the work. Some of the funding will also be used for identifying and remediating multiple housing-related health and safety hazards that are not lead-based paint hazards as part of a comprehensive approach.
These grants are provided through HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes to identify and clean up dangerous lead in privately-owned low-income housing. The funding is part of a $319 million competitive HUD funding round which was awarded to 77 city, county and state governments. The new funds will protect families by targeting low-income homes with significant lead and/or other home health and safety hazards.
Young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead and can suffer profound and permanent adverse health effects, particularly affecting the development of the brain and nervous system, according to the World Health Organization. Most children with elevated blood lead levels are exposed through the paint in their homes, especially if their homes were built before the use of lead paint was prohibited in 1978. Four in five homes in Boston were built before 1980, meaning that many children may live in homes with lead paint, according to the American Community Survey (ACS). In 2017, less than 2 percent of children under the age of four had elevated blood lead levels.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the percentage of screened children with elevated blood lead levels in Boston has declined 98 percent since 1992. However, even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, attention, and academic achievement in children. It is imperative that parents of small children have annual checkups scheduled where the children’s blood is tested.
“By providing these grants, HUD makes it clear that providing healthy and safe homes for the community is a priority. A key part of having a healthy home is maintaining your own health,” said Matthew Ammon, Director of HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes. “HUD is committed to protecting families from these hazards and providing healthy and sustainable housing.”
The City of Boston’s home-based lead poisoning prevention efforts are led by the Department of Neighborhood Development and the Boston Public Health Commission, in partnership with the Boston Office of Fair Housing and Equity, Suffolk County Housing Court and a range of medical, community development, code enforcement, and lead paint advocacy partners who share the goal of eliminating childhood lead poisoning in Boston.
By receiving this award, Boston will ramp up its efforts to continue to be a national leader in keeping lead out of drinking water supplies. The Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC) has offered ratepayers financial assistance to replace private lead service pipes since 1996, a grant program whose financial assistance incentives were doubled in 2015.
“NOAH is really fortunate to have such a strong and important partner in our work as DND and the Lead Safe Boston program! So many older buildings have lead in various forms and East Boston has many young and growing families,” said Executive Director of NOAH Philip Giffee. “it’s critical that the City support the families by providing funds to get rid of the lead hazard. We could not do it from our regular budgets. ”
In order to further support Boston’s efforts in preventing exposure to lead, Mayor Walsh has been advocating for “An Act relative to lead abatement” sponsored by Representative Angelo Scaccia proposing to increase the tax credit from $1,500 to $3,000 for the containment or abatement of lead paint to further protect children from lead paint contamination. This bill would help homeowners in Boston mitigate the expenses associated with the removal of lead from their homes and further encourage the important work that needs to be done to protect the youngest residents of the City.
Residents who are worried about lead paint in their home should visit the Boston Home Center website and or call (617) 635-HOME.