We are ready for a “Lead Safe Cleveland”: Augie Napoli
CLEVELAND – There is no safe blood lead for children, yet Cleveland is among the cities with the highest rates of lead poisoning. In the past year, as COVID-19 hit the world, children in Cleveland have spent more time than ever before inside homes with potential lead risks, while fewer have been tested for s ‘they had been exposed.
Simply put, lead poisoning is a fit.
Exposure to lead can damage a developing brain and cause lifelong, often irreversible, problems. According to a recent Western Reserve University Case Study, Cleveland children with high BLLs were 27% less likely to be on track for kindergarten and 35% more likely to be incarcerated as adults.
The study also highlighted what many of us have always known: Black children are disproportionately affected by lead poisoning, and lead exposure is concentrated in historically isolated and isolated neighborhoods.
The Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition has come together to face these staggering realities. Today we have over 450 members representing over 120 organizations. Although we may come from different backgrounds, we all believe that no child should be poisoned with lead.
Lead poisoning is a crisis, but we know safe housing is the solution. We know that lead-based paint and the dust it creates is the most common cause of lead exposure. We also know that by proactively sanitizing homes with lead-based paint – potentially 90% of our real estate in Cleveland – we can prevent lead poisoning before it happens.
The City of Cleveland’s Lead Safe Certification Act took a transformational step by requiring that all rental units built before 1978 be certified lead free. This approach works. Using a similar Lead Safe certification, the City of Rochester has passed reduced lead poisoning rates in County Monroe by nearly 85% in 10 years.
The law is only part of the solution. In a housing market like ours, Lead Safe certification needs to be matched with resources for residents and landlords. The Safe Home Main Fund – created by the Coalition – will provide these resources.
Today, thanks to the fund, any Clevelander can call or visit the new Chief Security Resource Center at 4600, avenue Euclide. The Lead Safe Resource Center is a one-stop shop for lead poisoning prevention. He helps homeowners navigate Lead Safe certification, educates and mobilizes residents about lead poisoning, and trains community members to become lead-free workers.
But that’s not all. The Lead Safe Home Fund provides financial assistance directly to homeowners to achieve their Lead Safe certification.
We cannot impose our way of running security. We need loans, grants and incentives to do this. We invite all Cleveland owners to call the Lead Safe Resource Center at 833-601-LEAD (5323) to see if you are eligible for assistance.
After 18 months of preparation, the Lead Safe certification law comes into effect today, March 31. Each rental unit, programmed by postal code, will need to be certified within the next two years.
We know it won’t be easy. Changing expectations, implementing a proactive inspection system, building trust within the community, and rolling out new home repair products will take persistence and, yes, adjustments. We will learn a lot. We are going to be challenged. But we are committed to the children of Cleveland. The Coalition is here to serve and here to stay.
As we are on the verge of implementation, the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition stands ready to take the next step forward. We believe more than ever that lead poisoning affects our entire community and we all need to take responsibility to address it.
Join the Coalition. Obtain your Lead Safe certification. Contact the Lead Safe Resource Center. Invest in the Lead Safe Home Fund. Join the fight against lead poisoning and together we’ll build a lead-free Cleveland
Augie Napoli is President and CEO of United Way of Greater Cleveland. This was written on behalf of the Safe Cleveland Coalition Senior Steering Committee.
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