FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 24, 2007

CONTACT: Sebastian D’Elia
Communications Director
Office: 908-527-4419 - Cell: 908-770-3662


Union County Awarded Grant for Home Environmental Hazards
Up to $4 million in new funds to reduce exposure to lead-based house paint

Elizabeth – The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders announced that the County will receive up to $4 million in funding from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to continue its work in reducing health hazards from lead-based paint in low income residential properties.

“HUD has recognized Union County’s aggressive action on this important health issue,” said Freeholder Chairwoman Bette Jane Kowalski. “With the new funds, we can step up our efforts to ensure that all Union County families are safe and healthy in their homes.”

The new HUD grant will expand an existing $1 million Union County program, in which loans are repaid into a special fund. For three years, the County has dedicated this fund to cleaning up lead-based paint in low-income properties.

The expanded program will include training for contractors and workers in reducing exposure to lead-based paint at work sites.

Union County will also reapply approximately $1 million to the fund, bringing the total amount of new funding for lead reduction to $5 million.

“It is time to get the lead out, once and for all,” said Chairwoman Kowalski. “This has been a priority for Union County for the past three years. We can accomplish so much more with additional federal support.”

Of the 65 state and local governments that received grants this year under the federal Lead Hazard Reduction Program, Union County was one of only three counties to obtain the top award of $4 million.

“Union County is dedicated to preserving affordable housing, and this program enables us to work cooperatively with low-income property owners to remove a known health hazard,” said Chairwoman Kowalski.

Lead is a soft metal that was once commonly added to gasoline to boost performance. In house paint, lead was a cheap way to enhance durability.

Airborne lead particles are now known to be a significant health hazard, especially in fetuses and young children.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, lead interferes with brain development, causing learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and mental retardation. Very high exposure can cause seizures and death.

Tight restrictions were placed on leaded gasoline in 1973, and on interior house paint in 1978. However, lead-based paint remains in many homes built before 1978, especially those built before 1950.

Children who are old enough to avoid eating paint chips may still be at risk. When old paint deteriorates, it releases lead-contaminated dust particles that can cause serious health problems, especially in children under age 7, including fetuses whose mothers are exposed.

A new coat of lead-free paint helps to reduce the hazard but children are best protected when the old paint is removed properly by trained professionals.

Low-income children who live in older homes are far more likely than the general public to have elevated blood lead levels. Children who lack adequate nutrition also absorb lead more easily.

“The children of Union County can’t wait for others to fix the problem,” said Chairwoman Kowalski. “They are depending on us to do the right thing, and that’s exactly what we are doing.”

For more information on reducing lead hazards,
visit the National Lead Information Clearinghouse
at or call toll free 1-800-424-5323.