DENVER (CBS4)– While Denver is seeing an influx of duplex and multi-family home construction, the city says nearly 70 percent of the homes were built before 1978. For many families, this can present a fun fixer-upper opportunity but it can also present some serious health hazards.
Lead poisoning has been identified as the No. 1 preventable environmental threat to children in the United States. The Denver Urban Renewal Authority (DURA) and Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE) are helping Denver families identify and remove lead-based paint hazards in their homes as part of a new, federally-funded grant program to protect children from exposure to lead-based paint.
“My pediatrician called and just said, ‘Vincent has elevated lead levels in his blood,’” said Stephanie Senese.
Stephanie and her husband Justin purchased a charming historic home in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood. They knew there was lead-based paint but never anticipated it would end up ruling their lives.
“We didn’t really know the dangers of how lead is ingested or inhaled things like that,” said Stephanie.
When their youngest, Vincent, tested positive for lead, they quickly learned what was going on.
The home had not been maintained and the areas with lead based paint began to crumble.
Stephanie said the biggest problems were points of friction, where doors closed or windows shut.
“The friction point was what was causing the little dust particles of lead to fall and Vincent would put his hands in ’em and then put them in his mouth and that is something I never knew about.”
Both of her children were okay but a health inspector called to the home discovered high levels of lead exposure all over the home.
“Leaded dust in the vents, leaded dust in the doors, everywhere! It was very stressful.”
They were referred to the lead-based paint removal program. It was so new, it hadn’t even launched. Before they knew it, the city got to work safeguarding the home using an LBC paint or lead barrier compound that works to seal the old paint and prevent exposure.
The city also replaced the crumbling windows.
The work took over a year but it’s something the family wouldn’t have been able to accomplish on their own.
While there are still areas that have the lead based-paint, there is a lot less stress in the house.
“I am so happy I can open and close my windows freely without fear.”
The Senese family hopes others can learn from their story.
The grant is available to homeowners living in their homes, as well as landlords renting their homes. For homeowners living in their homes, the program covers 100 percent of all costs to identify and remove lead-based paint. For landlords, it covers $6,000 and 90 percent of costs that exceed grant funding.
To qualify for the program, which is only available to residents of the City and County of Denver, homeowners must:
- Live in a home built prior to 1978,
- Be the parent or caregiver of a child or children under 6 years of age, or an expectant mother,
- Have a household income equal to or less than 80 percent of the Denver area median income based on the family size, as defined by HUD.
In addition to mitigating lead-based paint hazards, the program also offers $5,000 grants that clients can use to address other health and safety issues such as mold mitigation, fire alarms, pest control, etc. This component of the program is part of the HUD Healthy Homes Initiative.
To learn more about the Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control Program, find out if you’re eligible and to apply, visit renewdenver.org or call DURA at 303-534-3872.