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April 30, 2004 - Private donations sought to help alleviate lead poisoning problem in Richmond, VA.

April 30, 2004 - Private donations sought to help alleviate lead poisoning problem in Richmond, VA.

A new initiative was announced to solicit private donations to help families rid their homes of lead-based paint even as Richmond faces losing millions in federal grant money for lead-abatement work. The initiative, funded by a $1.2 million HUD grant, will work will local nonprofits on public education and fund raising.

Prior to the $1.2 million HUD grant, Richmond had been awarded more than $3 million by HUD to remove lead from homes, but the city's performance in carrying out that work was dismal, with HUD threatening to cancel the grant last fall. It is hoped this new initiative will educate the public and allow Richmond to keep the $3 million dollars for lead-abatement.

Lead is a naturally occurring metal substance that used to be added to gasoline and house paint. Federal officials started phasing out lead from gasoline in the 1980s and, in 1978, lead was banned as an ingredient in paint, but many older homes still contain lead paint.

Exposure can be particularly problematic in children younger than 6 because their bodies, which are still developing, absorb lead more readily. They may develop permanent neurological damage and learning impairment. At very high levels, lead poisoning can cause mental retardation, coma, convulsions and even death.

Very young children can get lead poisoning when they touch peeling lead-based paint and then put their hands in their mouths, or from crawling on floors where paint dust has settled, or from breathing in dust during home renovations.

Currently, in children 5 and younger, lead levels of 10 micrograms or more per deciliter of blood are considered unsafe.

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