South Bend addresses elevated lead levels

City officials are addressing elevated lead levels in one neighborhood.

South Bend leaders say old houses, rather than water, are likely to blame.

A state study shows over ten years, 31% of children in a section of the Near Northwest Neighborhood had elevated lead levels in their blood.

“Census tract six had a high percentage of children with elevated blood lead levels,” Dr. Luis Galup, with the St. Joseph County Health Department said.

Census tract six is a section of the near northwest neighborhood in South Bend.

“This is not about water, as a matter of fact the water in South Bend is in great shape,” Mayor Pete Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg says the water has been tested recently, and meets EPA standards.

However, old homes with peeling lead paint are the issue.

The paint chips can be inhaled by children and at risk groups if not addressed.

“We do have a lot of areas of relatively low income and older houses. That means a community like South Bend faces risks,” Buttigieg said.

Data from ISHD shows St. Joseph County has some of the highest percentages of old homes compared to other counties.

Workers at some manufacturing jobs can also bring the lead home on their shoes.

There are ways to prevent poisoning.

Buttigieg and Galup recommend testing children. Those under seven-years-old and pregnant women can be tested at the health department for free, and insurance may pay for older children.

The city also recommends using approved contractors in homes to address lead abatement, and to watching out for dust.

While Buttigieg insists the water is not the problem, the health department can still test water if a resident is concerned.

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