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Elizabeth, NJ – The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders announced the kickoff of a new drive to fight lead hazards in lower income single-family and multi-family dwellings countywide. The program is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control, with additional funding from Union County.

“With the help of this program, more property owners will be able to hire trained, qualified contractors to reduce the threat of lead exposure,” said Freeholder Chairman Angel G. Estrada. “These federal funds will enable us to address a public health threat while preserving affordable housing in Union County.”

Lead is a soft metal that was commonly used in the past as a low-cost additive to improve the durability of house paint. Including airborne particles, lead is now known to be a significant health hazard, especially in fetuses and young children.

Restrictions on leaded house paint went into effect in 1978. Public housing has received extensive remediation since then. However, leaded paint continues to be a problem in privately owned housing, especially in pre-1950 buildings. A new coat of lead-free paint helps to reduce the hazard but children are best protected when the remediation work is conducted properly by trained professionals.

Funding for the lead remediation program was awarded to Union County in late 2007, in the form of a $3.9 million federal grant. Union County funding of $100,000 brings the total to $4 million.

The grant will expand lead remediation efforts conducted through the County’s existing $1 million revolving loan fund, which has been used to clean up lead paint in low income housing for the past four years. The expanded program includes training for contractors and workers in reducing exposure to lead paint at work sites.

Union County will administer the lead remediation program in partnership with the cities of Elizabeth, Linden, Plainfield, Rahway and Union. The other sixteen municipalities in Union County will be served through the county’s Housing Improvement Program.

“This arrangement enables our local governments to cut costs for a vital public health service, by using the administrative resources of the County,” said Freeholder Chairman Estrada.

To be eligible for a grant, the housing unit must be built before 1978, the property owner must meet income limits, and the occupants must include children six years of age or under, or pregnant women. The federal grant will enable Union County to include both owner-occupied and rental housing.

Preliminary work on establishing the program has included gathering formal agreements for local governments to support contractor training, and identifying residences for priority action. Seminars on lead-safe practices for property owners, tenants, and the general public will also be conducted.

Union County was one of three counties nationwide to obtain the top award of $3.9 million under the federal Lead Hazard Reduction Program last year.

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