July 11, 2019

Program addresses lead paint poisoning in Salt Lake County

Emmarose Pacheco, 3, walks into her newly renovated house. Salt Lake County's Lead Safe Housing program repainted the exterior and interior of the Pacheco's home for free.      Photo by Laura Seitz|||| Emmarose Pacheco, 3, walks into her newly renovated house. Salt Lake County's Lead Safe Housing program repainted the exterior and interior of the Pacheco's home for free. Photo by Laura Seitz|||| ||||

By Gabriella Huggins

Formerly used in paint due to its quick-drying, moisture-resistant, and color=enhancing properties, lead was the darling of the industry. Most homes built in the United States before 1978 contained lead-based paint, and, despite studies connecting lead to myriad negative health and environmental outcomes, lack of regulation on industry kept lead on the market well into the 20th century.

The U.S. government banned the use of lead in paint in the 1970s, citing overwhelming evidence that even low levels of lead in a person’s bloodstream could cause seizures, developmental and behavioral disorders, and decreased IQ, among other risks. While it is now widely accepted that there is no safe lead blood level in any person, many Utahns remain at risk of lead exposure.

Many states have passed legislation and created programs to provide lead testing for children and removal of lead from homes, and Salt Lake County’s Lead Safe Housing Program is amongst those efforts. Millions of homes across the country built prior to the lead paint ban remain inhabited, and many of those have not undergone appropriate lead testing and removal. Children are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning. Lead flakes taste sweet when ingested, making them an unlikely treat for small children whose rapidly developing nervous systems are particularly sensitive to the toxin.

Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Lead Safe Housing Program is offering free home remediation services for eligible homeowners, renters, and landlords in dwellings that were built before 1978, and lead testing for parents expecting a child and for children under the age of 6. The Lead Safe Housing program is an important resource for Salt Lake’s west side, where established neighborhoods contain older homes and in some cases are close in proximity to industrial plants, meaning residents may be at a higher risk of lead exposure.

To learn more: Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment will offer information about lead poisoning and the Lead Safe Housing Program at upcoming Partners in the Park events from 6 p.m.- 8 p.m. on July 9 at Sherwood Park, 1400 W. 400 S.; July 16 at Riverside Park, 1490 W. 600 N.; and July 30 at Northwest Rec Center, 1255 W. Clark Ave. Information on the program can also be accessed on the Salt Lake County website at https://slco.org/lead-safe-housing/ and fliers are available in both Spanish and Arabic.