In January, Cleveland lost $2 million in funding to rid lead from homes after failing to use $7 million in federal grants by deadline. Democratic representatives Marcy Kaptur, Dennis Kucinich, and Marcia Fudge convinced the Department of Housing and Urban Development to allow the city to hang onto $1.1 million, but it must use the money by September. In the meantime, HUD will prohibit Cleveland from receiving more lead abatement money and demanded that the Department of Public Health turn over the project to the Community Development Department.
The Department of Public Health was supposed to renovate 330 homes by September 2011. It only completed 230. As a classic example of both passing the buck and taking a mile when given an inch, director Karen Butler told Cleveland.com that “the city had a long history of such problems” but “HUD had been flexible until now.”
Cleveland isn’t the first city to drop the ball though. Baltimore neglected to repair a mandated number of homes with a $4 million HUD grant a few years ago, so it was denied one last year. After correcting mismanagement issues by conducting a nationwide search for a new lead paint program leader, Baltimore was awarded a $2.9 million grant last month. With that in mind, it isn’t too late for Cleveland to correct its course. It is, however, never too soon, since Environmental Health Watch executive director Stuart Greenberg says more than 20 percent of Cleveland children have dangerously high levels of lead in their blood.
For over two decades, lead poisoning in children has equated to a blood lead level higher than 10 micrograms per deciliter. But home lead test retailer TestCountry.com says a child’s I.Q. drops three points for every 10 micrograms per deciliter of lead in the blood. And Cleveland State University researcher Wendy Kellogg warns there is no safe level. “Our bodies are not designed to process lead. No matter what the amount, it is still a poison.”
Website KidsHealth says children are more susceptible to lead poisoning because their smaller, growing bodies are more apt to absorb, retain, and distribute the metal throughout the bloodstream like vitamins and minerals.