Schenectady County

Plan announced to identify, clean up homes

Schenectady County is starting a new program to identify and clean up homes with high levels of lead

Schenectady County is starting a new program to identify and clean up homes with high levels of lead in targeted ZIP codes, officials announced.

The county’s Public Health Department is using a $184,209 state grant it received in September to launch the pilot program, aimed at preventing lead poisoning in children.

The program will begin in November and run through Sept. 30, 2009. The state Department of Health said it may provide additional program funding in coming years.

The Schenectady County Legislature discussed the program Monday night and is scheduled to accept the grant Oct. 14. The grant will pay county Public Health staff to canvass homes in the 12304 and the 12307 ZIP code areas. The 12304 ZIP code is Woodlawn and 12307 is the Hamilton Hill neighborhood. Both areas have high concentrations of older housing stock containing lead paint and both have been identified as having high incidences of elevated blood lead levels among children under age 6, said Carolyn Callner, assistant public health commissioner.

Homes found to have high levels of lead will be referred to the city’s Remedial Lead Paint Poisoning Prevention Program. The city last year received a $1 million federal grant to clean up hazardous lead paint conditions in 200 homes. Single-family, owner-occupied households can receive up to $5,000 for cleanup and multiple-unit rental properties can receive up to $4,000.

Callner said the pilot program will allow the county to deal with lead poisoning before it can become a serious health problem. Currently, the county gets involved in lead poisoning cases after they have been reported to the department by physicians.

“This is a primary prevention grant. We will try and hit every house in addition to the 200 targeted through the city program,” Callner said. “We will work with all the neighborhood organizations and we will do public awareness campaigns. People can also call us and we will visit their homes.”

The state Department of Health calls lead poisoning the No. 1 environmental problem for children in the state. Lead toxicity causes developmental and health problems in young children especially.

The state is trying to eliminate childhood lead poisoning in upstate New York by 2010. It requires all health care providers to test all children for blood lead levels at age 1 and again at age 2. In addition, health care providers are also required to evaluate all children 6 months to 6 years of age for risk of lead exposure each year as part of routine care.

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