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Major EPA Grant To Prevent Childhood Lead Poisoning Goes To Montefiore Medical Center For Work In Northern Manhattan

Release Date: 11/24/1997
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(#97161) New York, N.Y. -- A successful "Lead Busters" Training Program that brings information about childhood lead poisoning to families at greatest risk will be extended into Washington Heights thanks to a $249,720 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the Montefiore Medical Center's Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. The grant was announced at a check presentation ceremony today at the Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation offices in Washington Heights.

Lead Busters are volunteers, frequently the parents of lead-poisoned children, who are trained in lead-poisoning prevention, community organizing and housing/tenant/landlord issues. These volunteers reach out through health fairs and workshops and by door-to-door canvassing to alert at-risk families to the dangers of childhood lead poisoning and to inform them of available resources for diagnosis, treatment and prevention. The Lead Busters program has reached over 16,000 families since its inception in the Bronx in 1992.

Montefiore's expansion of its "Lead Buster" Training Program to Washington Heights will be in partnership with the Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation, a community organization providing legal and social services, job training and other programs throughout Northern Manhattan. Washington Heights is the seventh worst health district in New York City, yet less than half of its at-risk children are tested for lead poisoning.

"Don't stop," EPA's Conrad Simon told assembled Lead Busters, "until you have knocked on every door, talked to every parent, made sure every toddler has been tested. It is absolutely unacceptable that so many of our children should suffer from a disease that is entirely preventible." Simon is director of EPA Region 2's Division of Enforcement and Compliance Assistance, with responsibility for the region's lead poisoning prevention program.

Our experience with the Lead Busters project confirms the value of peer education as an effective way to help protect the health of our children," said Megan Charlop, Director of the Montefiore Medical Center's Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. "There is no better teacher than a motivated parent."

"More than 60,000 apartment units in Washington Heights contain lead paint," said Evan Hess, Director of the Community Organizing Department at Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation. "Community residents must take the lead in reaching people living in these apartments. The Lead Busters project and support from EPA are significant contributions to this effort."

Lead poisoning is one of the most serious environmental health threats facing children today. In children under the age of six, even low levels of lead affect intellectual, behavioral and physical development. Studies show that a lead-poisoned child is six times as likely to have a reading disability, seven times as likely to drop out of high school.

In addition to community outreach and advocacy, Montefiore's Lead Poisoning Prevention Program includes: out-patient clinics and in-patient treatment chelation treatment facilities; a laboratory that performs 20,000 lead screening tests each year; a 45-foot mobile van that can perform lead screening in communities where lead-paint hazards are prevalent, and a Safe House where families of lead-poisoned children can stay while the lead contamination in their homes is remediated.

Today's grant was made under EPA's Environmental Justice Community/University Partnership Grants Program (CUP), established to help minorities and low-income communities address local environmental justice issues through a formal partnership agreement with a college or university. A total of eleven CUP grants, totaling over $2 million, were made by EPA in 1997.


For more information contact:
Richard Stapleton, Press Office
EPA Region 2
290 Broadway
NY, NY 10007-1866
Voice: 212-637-3662 FAX: 212-637-5046 E-Mail: stapleton.richard@epamail.epa.gov