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Allegheny County gets $3.4M to rid homes of lead-based paint

Aaron Aupperlee
| Monday, June 13, 2016, 12:27 p.m.

Allegheny County will use $3.4 million in federal grant funds to remove lead from low-income homes.

The county expects to use the money from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to reduce the risk of poisoning in 200 homes with lead paint or windows, conduct lead risk assessments in 230 homes, and perform health home assessments in 100 homes through the Allegheny Lead Safe Homes program.

“We want our residents to live in and be able to purchase safe, healthy and affordable housing. With an older housing stock in many of our communities, programs like Allegheny Lead Safe Homes are an important part of that process,” county Executive Rich Fitzgerald said in a statement.

Residents must apply to participate in the program. To be eligible, a family must live in the county in a home built before 1978, have a child younger than 6 in the house, have lead-based paint hazards in the house and meet HUD's income guidelines. The county will start contacting potential applicants in two to three months.

The money and program seek to reduce the number of children with elevated levels of lead in their blood. Children are most often exposed to lead through lead paint. About 8 percent of children in Pittsburgh and 7 percent of children in the county had elevated levels of lead in their blood, according to a 2014 study from the state Department of Health.

About 89 percent of houses in Allegheny County were built before 1978, when lead paints were banned.

HUD awarded more than $47 million in grants to combat lead in about 3,100 homes nationwide. Allegheny County was the only recipient in Pennsylvania.

“Home should be a safe place for a child and today's grant announcement will take steps toward safety for Pittsburgh children,” U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, said in a statement. “Elevated lead levels represent a threat that no child should have to face and Pittsburgh will be at the forefront of mitigating that threat.”

HUD Secretary Julián Castro also announced measures the agency will take to tighten lead requirements in its housing.

The agency will lower the threshold of lead in a child's blood that would trigger a home assessment from 20 micrograms per deciliter to the 5 micrograms per deciliter used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The agency also will step up enforcement efforts to assure that property owners comply.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7986 or aaupperlee@tribweb.com.

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