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Lead Hazards Persist As Richmond Observes National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week

Melissa Williams addresses the press
Richmond resident Melissa Williams addresses the press and city officials about her son's experience with lead poisoning.

Report by VPM intern Alan Rodriguez Espinoza.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney kicked off National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week on Monday afternoon, touring a home that was recently declared safe from lead along with other city officials.

The house belongs to Melissa Williams, whose son was diagnosed last year with lead in his blood. Stoney said this week is for “acknowledging the fact that lead poisoning is not yet eradicated.”

“Forty percent of our children in this city live under the poverty line,” Stoney said outside of Williams' home. “A number of those children are facing the challenges of lead poisoning.”

According to a report by the Richmond City Health District, 16,000 children in Richmond are at risk of being impacted by lead poisoning. Lead-based paint continues to be an issue in the city where 81 percent of homes were built before 1978.

Upon discovering that her son had been exposed to lead, Williams applied and qualified for Richmond’s Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control Program. She received a grant from the city to have the lead hazards in her home removed or addressed.

“It’s been a true blessing to have this done,” Williams said. “Without it, I wouldn’t be able to live in this house today.”

With help from the Richmond City Health District and and project:HOMES, Williams was able to remove all lead from her windows, doors and floorboards. She also received a grant to repair her roof and improve the heating system in her house. The level of lead in her son’s blood has since decreased.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently announced $314 million would go towards lead hazard reduction across the country. In a press release, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said the state was awarded $5.6 million, and Chesterfield county received an additional $1.6 million.

You can learn more about the Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control Program  here, or by visiting the Virginia Department of Health  website.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to clarify the work performed on Williams' home did not remove all the lead entirely, but "removed or addressed lead hazards." We also added the name of project:HOMES as a partner in the project and clarified that Williams roof was "repaired" rather than "replaced."  

VPM News is the staff byline for articles and podcasts written and produced by multiple reporters and editors.
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