Lead contamination may be eliminated or reduced in almost 250 Salt Lake County homes through a $2.5 million cleanup grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
County Mayor Ben McAdams said the federal funding will help prevent long-term problems by reducing the exposure of vulnerable children to lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust.
"Lead is a known toxin that impairs children's development," McAdams said Wednesday, highlighting the grant's importance to an anti-lead campaign being conducted by a partnership between the county, University of Utah Pediatrics Department, Intermountain Health Care, Asthma Task Force, Salt Lake Habitat for Humanity and other advocate groups.
"We know lead poisoning is preventable," he added, "if we stop kids from coming into contact with lead and treat those poisoned by it."
While lead paint was not banned from use until 1978, County Housing Manager Randy Jepperson said the county's most vulnerable homes are wood-framed, pre-1940s buildings with windows that slide up and down. That movement chips off lead-based paint and generates dust at levels within reach of little children often ending up in their mouths.
"It takes an incredibly small amount of lead to create an exposed child," Jepperson said, noting that the average cost of lead removal is about $6,000 per home, although costs can go up to $20,000.
Lead exposure is known to decrease IQ, produce physical and developmental disabilities, and to mess with kidneys and central nervous systems, said Kelly Jorgenson, HUD's field office director for a six-state region that includes Utah.
His agency has given out $98 million for 38 lead-eradication projects around the country, hoping to clean up 6,000 homes. Salt Lake County is the only recipient in his region, Jorgenson said, but has received four other grants totaling $7 million since 2002, using that money on more than 1,000 homes.
"We're proud of [the county] and sure they will continue to do exemplary work," he added.
McAdams said people who think their home might be contaminated may call 385-468-4886 to arrange an inspection.
People who want to know if their home should be checked for lead contamination may call 385-468-4886.