Getting the lead out

March 3, 2009 4:56:42 PM PST
It's a hidden health risk in countless homes in Galveston. And now, help is on the way for homeowners who've been living under hazardous conditions, and may not have even realized it. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

A lot of people don't realize that nearly half of the homes are suspected of being built with lead-based paint. Last week, city officials were able to get the money and now they're using it to start a program to get rid of the lead based problem.

Many homes on the island were built using paint that's now outlawed because of its lead content. It's a serious situation that few people realize can lead to long term health effects.

Galveston resident T.J. Moguel lives with it and knows about it, but isn't too concerned about it.

"You live with it," she said. "Like anything else you live with it, things that you can't change. You don't worry about."

Moguel is like many of her neighbors, living in and around homes with lead-based paint. A look at Galveston's demographics is a window into why so many homes still have lead based paint. According to city statistics, 60 percent of islanders are considered low to moderate income with a yearly salary of about $21,000. As a result, most cannot afford the intensive and expensive removal process.

"The grant doesn't become effective until November, so we have a long way to plan where we're going and there are other components of the grant," said Sterling Patrick, director of grants and housing for the city of Galveston. "We're looking at health department partnering. They will do lead screenings for children. There is also a training component where we will attempt to provide safe work practice training for the contractors."

An estimated 77 percent of homes on Galveston Island have lead based paint, and were built well before lead based paint was outlawed in 1978.

The $3 million dollars in federal grant money isn't enough to get rid of all the lead paint, but it is a start. The grant money will pay for lead based paint removal for about 180 homes, a fraction of the 4,000 homes on Galveston Island with lead-based paint.

It may be just a start, but it's a welcome opportunity for Moguel.

"Oh yeah, come on. Let's bring it on," said Moguel. "I'll get tested, get the house redone and everything if there's money there for it."

If you want to register for this project, you can call the Galveston Grants and Housing Departments at 409-765-3714.

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