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Efforts to protect children from lead poisoning intensifying in Cleveland homes

New mitigation program rolls out in Cleveland
Posted at 3:52 PM, Dec 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-07 18:15:42-05

CLEVELAND — There’s a new push to protect the children of Northeast Ohio. Tens of millions of dollars are available to help property owners make their buildings lead safe.

Here's why that's so important.

In 2019, just over 2% of Ohio children tested had high lead levels, but in Cuyahoga County that number jumped to nearly 6%.

In Cleveland, it's even higher at 8.6%.

“25% of our children in CMSD schools have been exposed to lead,” said Kimberly Foreman, Environmental Health Watch.

Starting next month, landlords in the city must certify their rental units are lead safe to try and significantly reduce exposure.

“This is the first time the type of the resources we have dedicated not only to landlords, but homeowners,” said Foreman.

Environmental Health Watch teamed up with CHN Housing Partners to help property owners and parents identify areas in a home that can create lead dust.

“Look for friction surfaces such as door jams, windows,” said Kevin Nowak, CHN Housing Partners.

CHN will then provide the contractors who can come in to reduce the risk in those rental units.

“When you look at landlords in Cleveland, most of them are smaller mom and pop shops,” said Nowak.

Instead of trying to completely remove the lead, which can cost between $30,000-$50,000, crews will provide interim controls.

“You’re able to reduce the potential for lead poisoning significantly by undertaking the smaller controls that are on average around $4,000 per unit,” said Nowak.

CHN Housing Partners is working to secure $85 million over the next five years to mitigate exposure in Cleveland's rental properties.

“Our goal is to be able to have financing available for 20,000 to 25,000 of those units,” said Nowak.

Landlords will have to incur some cost, but they have no choice. Starting in 2021, they will be required to secure lead safe certificates.

“Building and Housing is responsible for handling the certification, certifying landlords,” said Foreman.

Environmental Health Watch is currently building up manpower to get their efforts underway.

“We have to have the workforce ready to address the mitigation, address the properties, to make sure our children are not continuously getting poisoned every day in the city of Cleveland.”