Hartford making significant progress in protecting kids from ‘killer’ effects of lead poisoning

Ted Glanzer/Hartford Courant/TNS

Hartford has received a $4 million federal grant to continue its effort to reduce lead exposure and other home-based toxic substances to children and families, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal announced Thursday at City Hall.

Like many municipalities in Connecticut, Hartford has a high number of buildings built before 1978, the year when lead-based paint was banned.

For decades, the city, state and federal governments have worked to abate those buildings and dwellings of lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust, the exposure to which can cause significant physical and mental problems, particularly among young children.

“Lead poisoning is a pernicious disease that can hold kids back their entire lives,” Bronin said. “This grant will allow us to eliminate the threat of lead [and other toxic substances] from 165 more homes. This is a massive investment in the health of our kids. This is a massive investment in communities that struggle against ... lead poisoning.”

Blumenthal didn’t mince words in calling lead a “killer.”

“It kills people, it kills dreams, it kills hope for the future,” Blumenthal said. “It impedes growth in children. … But it also kills dreams. Because once it is in a child, it stays there. It doesn’t disappear. It inhibits growth throughout the life of a child. It is one of the most destructive elements that can be found in anybody’s home.”

Bronin noted that the city has made significant progress in reducing the number of children who are exposed to lead.

In 2020, Hartford ranked fourth in the state with 71 children under 6 with lead levels greater than 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood, a total that has declined a total of 58% since 2016, when it was 170, according to the state Department of Public Health’s surveillance reports. New Haven is No. 1 with 171, down from 405 in 2013.

Hartford has remediated lead from about 1,400 housing homes since 2001, according to a press release.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently lowered the minimum level of lead in the blood which will trigger healthcare workers and housing specialists to take action, from 5 mcg to 3.5 mcg.

The state has passed a law that will put that level into effect as of Jan. 1, 2023, so the number of children and dwellings subject to lead treatment and abatement will rise significantly.

The $4 million grant follows a $3.4 million HUD grant that the city previously received, and will continue the efforts of Hartford’s Health and Human Services Department.

“We’re really proud of the work that’s been happening,” said Liany Arroyo, the city’s director of health. “No amount of lead is safe in children.”

To qualify for lead remediation, some guidelines have to be met, Arroyo said.

Homeowners and tenants who believe there is lead-based paint in their homes are encouraged to reach out to HHS at 860-757-4700, Arroyo said.

Bronin noted that the remediation program is one piece of a broader effort to protect children from the effects of lead. A big part of our work to combat lead poisoning, which includes education in schools, early learning centers, and health care providers, among others.

Courant reporter Ed Stannard contributed to this article.