Lead-based paint still poisoning Twin Cities kids

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Melisa Illies, a lead hazard reduction worker for Hennepin county is pointing to a north Minneapolis home window from about the 1940’s that is likely painted with a lead based paint and will soon be replaced.

The homeowner heard about the lead paint hazard at a community event, applied for and won a grant of about $5,500. The money will go to replace all the windows in her home.

Her two-year-old daughter has an elevated blood lead level.

The grant may be new, but worries over lead paint poisoning have been around for decades here.

St. Paul native Howard Mielke, now a Louisiana-based scientist, was a pioneer in bringing the hazard to public attention.

He’d likely be interested to know that even after all these years and the millions spent to reduce the hazard, Hennepin county officials estimate there are still a thousand kids in Hennepin county with elevated lead levels in their blood.

The heavy metal harms neurological development in children.

Until 1978 when it was banned, lead was commonly used in house paint as a pigment and to make it tougher, more opaque and washable.

Windows with aging, peeling, flaking lead-based paint are a common source of poisoning as kids playing with or near the windows get the powdery residue from the paint on their fingers that go into their mouths.

The $7 million federal grant will go to lead abatement window replacement in hundreds of homes, many of the them in Minneapolis.

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