Good afternoon. Thank you all for coming. I thank Mayor (Bill) White for joining us and for his commitment to this issue. And thanks to the Ramirez family, Frank and Esther, for their hospitality. You are most kind to open your home to us.
Our homes should be places of love and life, like the Ramirez home. Yet, sometimes older homes are unhealthy because of dangerous lead-based paint. So, we must make every effort to identify lead-based paint hazards and control them.
Lead-based poisoning is a recognized health hazard. You probably remember the old commercials where children were eating paint chips. That is an image that remains powerfully visible in our minds. Yes, that is one way to get lead poisoning. But lead can also be ingested or inhaled in other ways, such as through dust. Young children can easily ingest it as they crawl on the floor. This dust is difficult to avoid because much of it comes from the abrasion of opening or closing windows, or from the deterioration of wall paint over time. But in older homes that dust is part of everyday life, day after day, year after year. It can coat the floors and window sills.
Lead-based paint is a health hazard for everyone. But it primarily affects the young, our children, who look to us to be guardians of their health, stewards of their future. Lead poisoning has been linked to developmental disabilities, damage top kidneys and the central nervous system, anemia, convulsions, coma, and even death. Obviously, we must prevent this. We must give children a healthy start in life. So in 1978, lead-based paint was banned for use in homes.
HUD has been one of the agencies working to address the hazards of lead-based paint. We cooperate with governmental and non-governmental efforts to identify and control lead-based paint hazards in older, privately owned rental housing. We also require public housing authorities to check for and control lead hazards in older homes rented or purchased using housing assistance dollars. Our program is the largest federal effort to clean up potentially dangerous lead in housing.
One way we help state and local governments control lead hazards is through our grant programs for lead hazard identification and control. These grants are awarded yearly.
Today I am pleased to announce grants totaling $8.1 million for the City of Houston and for Harris County. This funding is part of $12 million awarded to Texas and nearly $140 million awarded nationwide.
Specifically, Houston and Harris County are receiving a total of three grants.
Two have been awarded to the City of Houston. The Houston Department of Health and Human Services will be awarded two grants of $3 million each (a $6 million total) in federal funds to control lead hazards in a total of 400 low-income housing units.
Harris County will be awarded $2.1 million in Lead Hazard Reduction Demonstration funds to reduce lead hazards in 150 units and for screening about 1,800 children through the County's outreach efforts.
These grants will help make about 550 affordable rental housing units healthier and safer. We will see the results in healthier, happier, more active, and better-educated children, who become healthier and more productive adults.
These grants will help Americans continue our progress in eliminating lead poisoning. More housing units will become safer nationwide. HUD lead hazard control grant programs have already made over 91,000 housing units safe.
Also, these grants will help train more people for lead identification and control. HUD has directly trained over 43,000 people in lead-safe methods of doing housing repair and renovation. Indirectly, HUD's lead grantees have trained tens of thousands more people in these lead safe work practices.
So, thanks to the grants and good work of many Americans, more and more children will be protected from lead-related health problems. Let me put this in perspective. In the early 1990s, there were an estimated 900,000 children with lead poisoning. Now there are about 300,000 children.
Well, one child with lead poisoning is too many. But 600,000 children saved from lead-related health problems is good news - great news.
If we continue our progress, we should be able to meet the Federal goal of eliminating childhood lead poisoning by 2010.
I am sure that Frank and Esther Ramirez would be the first to tell you that we must love and protect our children, and our grandchildren. Every child is a profound gift. By addressing lead hazard and other potential health problems, we give every child a chance to fulfill the promise of life and love, now and in the future. That's why these grants are important for people in Houston and Harris County, and throughout Texas and the nation.
NOTE: To read the Press Release, visit http://archives.hud.gov/news/2007/pr07-153.cfm
Again, thank you for coming.