Bond applauds St. Louis efforts to clean up lead

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

ST. LOUIS -- Sen. Kit Bond on Monday applauded St. Louis for its efforts to reduce lead poisoning in children, but said more must be done.

He spoke outside the red-brick home of Rebecca Qualls and Kevin Croat, who recently used a city-funded program to remove lead-based paint from the home.

Bond said more than $7 million in federal money has gone to Lead Safe St. Louis, an umbrella group that administers different lead abatement programs. Bond pledged an additional $15 million to help the city reach its goal of eliminating lead poisoning by 2010.

Although lead paint was banned in 1978, it remains a chronic problem throughout St. Louis, where many of the homes are decades-old. More than 30 percent of St. Louis children tested in 2000 had elevated levels of lead in their blood -- seven times the national average.

Critics say the city hasn't moved fast enough to battle a preventable health hazard.

"You don't have a very serious problem -- you have an epidemic," said Don Fitz, a spokesman for the Green Party of St. Louis.

Fitz said programs like the one used by Qualls and Croat are ineffective because they require landlords to put up half of the money for renovations. Lead poisoning is concentrated in low-income neighborhoods, so landlords who need renovations the most often can't afford to pay for the work upfront, he said.

Much of the city's lead abatement work is being conducted through the Grace Hill Neighborhood Health Centers. The group tests the homes of pregnant women to see if lead levels are dangerously high. If renovations are needed, the group offers five-year, forgivable loans to landlords for the work.

Project Administrator Debora Cotton said the group wouldn't be able to renovate nearly 30 homes a month if federal funding was not available. She said it's the only resource many inner-city mothers have to keep their homes safe.

"A lot them don't have insurance, so it's an excellent program," Cotton said.


On the Net:

Lead Safe St. Louis: www.leadsafestlouis.org

Grace Hill: www.gracehill.org

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: www.hud.gov

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