South Bend outreach program to help reduce lead poisoning

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- Local officials met Thursday outside a home on Sherman Avenue to discuss efforts to relaunch its Lead-Grant Program in South Bend.

Lead-based paint was banned in the U.S back in 1978, and most of the homes in South Bend were built before that and still contain lead paint.

“So that we can make our houses safe and communities safe. For all of our residence and we love our old houses and historic neighborhoods, but they do have higher rates of lead and lead exposure,” South Bend Mayor James Mueller said.

In South Bend, about 80 percent of homes in the city were built before 1980. Lead-based paint was banned in 1978, meaning there’s a possibility of contamination in most neighborhoods. The Near Northwest Neighborhood has been involved in lead remediation efforts for years. The neighborhood group created an outreach program to raise awareness about lead screening, testing, and the dangers of lead poisoning.

“In 20-17, we found out that our neighborhoods had very high percentages of children who received a testing that tested high for lead in their blood. So, this is a serious problem for those of us with homes in the NNN, and it’s a serious problem for almost all of the neighborhoods in South Bend,” Executive Director Kathy Schuth said.

Now efforts to re-launch a Lead-Grant Program are underway to help get children screened for lead-poisoning, and to offer lead-safe repairs for these older homes.

Lead is a toxic metal that can build up in the body over time if exposed and weaken the immune system.

Saint Joseph County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Mark Fox said children ages one and two should be tested for lead. But, the goal is to get every child in St. Joseph County screened for lead exposure by age three.

It’s all about their future. You can’t live with lead,there is no safe level of lead in children,” said South Bend Common Councilwoman Sheila Niezgodski.

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