Salt Lake County gets grant to help prevent lead poisoning

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SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah – A new program is helping homeowners in Salt Lake County fix problems that could put children at risk for lead poisoning.

Ben McAdams, Salt Lake County Mayor, said lead poisoning is entirely preventable, and he said the county wants to help people reduce the risks of lead poisoning.

Randy Jepperson is the housing director for Salt Lake County, and he said the age of a home is one important thing to consider with lead paint.

"When you look at houses built before 1940, about 90 percent of them have lead in them,” he said.

There are an estimated 30,000 homes in the county that were built before 1940, and county officials said they are working to clean up the homes that have lead-based paint. The county was awarded a $2.5 million grant in May from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help fund the fix.

Jepperson said children face danger from lead-based paint.

"The lead poisoning, like I mentioned, comes from paint chips and dust,” he said. “It's generated when windows, paint chips, and it falls on the floor and a child's crawling along and it gets on toys, different things where it can be, and then they put it on their mouth."

Doctor Dagmar Vitea of the Salt Lake County Health Department said it’s important to watch out for symptoms of lead poisoning among children.

"So the child all the sudden doesn't feel well,” Vitea said. “They have belly aches. They stop eating. They don't sleep well. They're irritable, and lead can target just about any organ."

Children under the age of 6 are the most at risk. In a study conducted by Salt Lake County, it was determined about 4 percent of children under the age of 6 are poisoned with some degree of lead.

"So if you do the math, there’s about 100,000 children under the age of 6 in the Salt Lake valley, and so there could be up to 1,000 children that have lead poisoning of some degree,” Jepperson said.

Jepperson said it only takes an amount of lead equal to 1/10th of a sugar packet to poison a child. Jepperson said older dwellings with wood-framed windows and/or peeling paint may be home to lead-based paints.

"If you do live in an older house, two things you can do right away,” he said. “Keep it super clean, and when I say clean, you take a bucket of water, and you actually clean one little section and throw the water away, throw the rag away and then you go on to the next section. So you make sure everything is clean, and you make your children have a really good diet. The diet has a really big impact on whether or not... even if they ingest lead, if they have a good diet, it doesn't impact them as badly."

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