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Quincy Housing Authority acquires federal funds to remove lead from public housing

Lead-based paint
Mike Mozart | Flickr

The Quincy Housing Authority has received $1 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to remove lead from its residential properties.

Housing officials in Quincy, Illinois, about 135 north of St. Louis, aim to address properties built in 1942. Houses built before the 1978 federal ban on lead-based paint most likely contain traces of lead. The HUD funds will be used to hire a contractor to conduct testing and lead abatement for five properties, which contain a total of 254 units.

In recent years, there has been some effort to prevent lead exposure for public-housing residents, but it hasn’t been enough, said Jerry Gille, executive director of the Quincy Housing Authority. Housing officials largely covered up the lead with latex paint.

“Given the age of the housing authority, we’ve always known there was lead-based paint in some of the family units, at some level,” Gille said. “We’d really like to get in there and remove all of it and just formally put this behind us, so that our families can live in public housing without the fear of having their children exposed to the hazards of lead.”

Lead exposure can be highly toxic to humans. Young children are especially vulnerable and can risk having permanent brain and nervous-system damage. In adults, lead exposure can cause kidney damage.

Removing lead has been a priority for the Quincy Housing Authority for some time, but funding has been difficult to attain, said Gille.

“Public housing isn’t exactly funded at the level it needs to be to maintain the things that public-housing authorities need nowadays,” he said.

During his tenure as executive director, Gille recalled only one time that a child living in one of the units showed elevated lead levels in their blood. The child had already had a high level of lead exposure prior to moving to the unit, he added.

The Quincy Housing Authority plans to hire a contractor within a year.

Follow Eli on Twitter: @StoriesByEli

Eli is the science and environment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.