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EPA and Manchester Announce Funding and Actions to Curb Childhood Lead Poisoning

Release Date: 10/01/2002
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1008

MANCHESTER, NH - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and City of Manchester today announced a series of actions aimed at reducing lead poisoning risks in apartments and houses across the city of Manchester, NH.

Flanked by families and children who have suffered from lead poisoning in the city, EPA Regional Administrator Robert W. Varney announced a $15,000 EPA grant to support The Way Home, a nonprofit homeless prevention agency that provides lead-free housing for families in Manchester. Varney also announced enforcement actions against two New Hampshire realty companies for failing to properly notify home buyers and renters of risks from exposure to lead paint, as required by federal law.

"While we've made progress reducing lead poisoning threats, it's unacceptable that hundreds of children in Manchester are still being exposed to lead paint each and every year," Varney said, at a news conference at The Way Home. "Today's actions should send a clear message that EPA, working closely with state and local partners, will do everything it can to eliminate this problem."

Varney praised The Way Home for its work in educating and protecting thousands of families and children from such health hazards as lead and asthma. Earlier this year, The Way Home opened a housing resource center that provides short-term transitional housing for families, particularly those being exposed to potential lead threats. "This organization does it all and it's one of the best investments we've ever made," Varney said, noting that the $15,000 grant is the third The Way Home has received through the agency's Environmental Justice Grant Program.

"The Way Home is pleased to work with EPA on the Environmental Justice concerns of protecting children from lead hazards found in older housing," said Mary Sliney, executive director of The Way Home. "The region's housing shortage has forced many low income families to remain in older housing with deteriorating leads paint or face homelessness. To leave no child behind, we are committed to the goal of creating community partnerships involving low income families, landlords and city officials in order to provide lead safe housing."

Manchester Mayor Robert Baines announced an additional $42,000 of funding to the Way Home – funding that was made possible through an agreement between the city, the state and EPA in 1999 regarding sewer overflows in the city. The agreement required the city to spend $500,000 on children's health programs.

"We're pleased to award $42,000 to The Way Home to continue its lead poisoning and asthma prevention services to Manchester," Mayor Baines said. "This work is important to the city's goal of being home to healthy families in a healthy community environment."

EPA also proposed fines yesterday against two New Hampshire realty companies – $33,892 against Senecal Properties and $13,200 against Lacerte Realty – for failing to properly notify home buyers and renters of risks from exposure to lead paint. Both realty firms are based in Manchester.

The two cases are among a half-dozen lead-related civil and criminal cases EPA New England has taken since launching an initiative to make sure landlords and property owners are complying with federal laws, which require them to notify tenants and prospective buyers of potential lead-paint hazards in their buildings. The initiative has included more than 80 inspections around New England as well as compliance assistance workshops. One such workshop for property owners and contractors will be held Oct. 23 in Manchester.

Low-level lead poisoning is widespread among American children, affecting as many as three million children under the age of six, with lead paint being the primary cause. In Manchester, NH alone, 173 of 2,238 children who were screened last year – 7.7 percent – had elevated blood lead levels, according to the NH Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. That's double the statewide rate of 3.8 percent.

Researchers have determined that children are especially susceptible to lead poisoning, both because of a higher probability of ingestion of lead paint particles (including lead contaminated dust) and because of a higher degree of vulnerability. Elevated lead levels can trigger learning disabilities, decreased growth, hyperactivity, impaired hearing and even brain damage.