Maine CDC Press Release

August 24, 2010

State Announces More Than $300,000 in Contracts To Prevent Lead Poisoning

AUGUSTA - The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention is awarding a total of $316,250 in community contracts to Healthy Maine Partnerships throughout the state to help keep children and their families safe from lead.

Contracts range from $2,000 to $43,250, with the majority of funding going to partners in Bangor, Biddeford/Saco, Lewiston/Auburn, Portland and Sanford.

"We know that nearly 40 percent of all kids with lead poisoning live in these five communities," explained state toxicologist, Dr. Andrew Smith. "We also know that upward of 80 percent of the kids with lead poisoning in these five areas live in rental housing. With data like these and our Healthy Maine Partnerships, we can really empower communities to take local action and more effectively focus on lead hazards."

Healthy Maine Partnerships will work with landlords who own older buildings and help the families that live in those older rental units. Dust from lead paint is the most common cause of childhood lead poisoning and is often present in buildings built before 1950, and sometimes in buildings built up until 1978. This outreach effort also provides free lead dust testing for rental units and follow-up support to address lead paint hazards identified through testing.

"Since we began our community contracts program in 2009, we have been working to build capacity and infrastructure on the local level, now we are starting to reap results. Our partners have conducted lead dust testing in 220 units and have identified lead paint hazards in 74 of those," said Dr. Smith.

Made possible by the Lead Poisoning Prevention Fund, the community contracts are a key strategy in the state's push to eliminate childhood lead poisoning. "The goal of these contracts is prevention – to identify potential lead hazards and address them before a child ever becomes lead poisoned," said Maine CDC director, Dr. Dora Anne Mills. "Through the Lead Poisoning Prevention Fund, the people who really know their towns decide how best to reach local families most at risk for lead poisoning. The state provides resources to support their efforts."

Examples of other local activities include convening local landlords associations as a way to discuss proper maintenance of lead paint; sponsoring and recruiting residents to workshops on living safely with lead paint; and building partnerships with youth groups to distribute information and supplies in high-risk neighborhoods.

About half of the Lead Poisoning Prevention Fund supports local prevention efforts. The other half supports mandated statewide prevention efforts.

"I am so happy to see more resources going to educate parents about lead poisoning. It is hard to understand how little lead dust it takes to poison a child. We live in an old house and were shocked when our 8-month-old tested high for lead. I don’t want any other family to have to go through what we did," said Leslie Pohl of Portland about the Lead Poisoning Prevention Fund.

For young children, lead poisoning can cause very serious and long-term health effects such as behavior problems, learning disabilities, speech and language delays, and lower intelligence. Often there are no signs or symptoms of illness that can alert a parent to a problem.

The good news is that parents and landlords can take some very simple and low cost steps to keep kids safe from lead, including: keeping paint in good condition so there is no peeling or flaking, not disturbing lead paint by sanding or scraping it, washing hands before eating and sleeping, and cleaning once a week with wet rags and mops.

A list of local contacts and more information about the causes and prevention of lead poisoning and living safely with lead paint are available at www.maine.gov/healthyhomes.


About the Lead Poisoning Prevention Fund

In 2005, the 122nd Maine Legislature established the Lead Poisoning Prevention Fund (LPPF or 22 MRSA c.252 1322-E). Revenue for the LPPF comes from a $0.25 per gallon fee imposed on manufacturers or wholesalers of paint sold in Maine. The LPPF was established to provide resources to support lead poisoning prevention education, outreach and training programs. The Fund has been awarding contracts to Healthy Maine Partnerships for lead poisoning prevention activities since 2009, for a total of $893,250. In the coming years, the LPPF will continue its work to eliminate lead poisoning through community contracts and other prevention strategies, and will complete a comprehensive evaluation of its activities. For more information: www.maine.gov/healthyhomes.