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Bloomington Gets $2M For Lead Removal; Much of McLean County At High Risk

Chipped paint on porch
Eric Stock
Homes in the 61701 zip code in Bloomington are considered high risk for pediatric lead poisoning.

The Cty of Bloomington is getting $2 million from the federal government to remove lead from 92 housing units.
The funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development comes with an additional $329,000 for its Health Homes program that addresses various childhood diseases and injuries.

Dr. Samina Yousuf
Credit OSF HealthCare
Pediatrician Samina Yousuf with OSF Pediatrics in Bloomington said lead-based paint is still a problem in many older neighborhoods.

Pediatrician Samina Yousuf with OSF Pediatrics in Bloomington said lead-based paint is still a problem in many older neighborhoods, even though its use was banned 40 years ago.

“The fact that we have this many houses and there’s probably even more in our area that still contain the possibility of lead exposure to our young children is obviously very concerning,” Yousuf said.

Lead poisoning can stunt a child's development, especially in kids 6 and under, but it can cause severe health problems in people of any age.

Yousuf said lead poisoning disproportionately affects children from lower-income families.

She said those children are more likely to have poor nutrition.

“If your body is not nutritionally sound, for example if you lack iron or calcium or zinc, then you are actually more likely to absorb more lead from your environmental factors because the iron, the calcium and the zine are not competing,” Yousuf said.

Yousuf added lower-income families also are more likely to live in older housing where there's less upkeep and greater risk for exposure from lead-based paint.

Yousuf said if a family is considered high-risk for lead poisoning, a blood test can determine their lead levels. The McLean County Health Department (MCHD) can do a risk assessment of their home. She said she prescribes medication for anyone who tests for higher lead levels.

Lead levels over five micrograms per deciliter are considered potentially hazardous, a standard that’s been strengthened substantially over the years as health experts become more aware of lead's effects.

The Illinois Department of Public Health lists nine McLean County ZIP codes as high risk for lead poisoning in kids, including 61701 in Bloomington and eight others in eastern McLean County: 61720 (Anchor), 61722 (Arrowsmith), 61724 (Bellflower), 61728 (Colfax), 61730 (Cooksville), 61731 (Cropsey), 61737 (Ellsworth) and 61770 (Saybrook).

Yousuf referred to lead as a silent killer, since its symptoms don’t appear right away. She said many people think because the Environmental Protection Agency banned lead-based paints decades ago that it’s not a problem anymore.

“It is something you don’t see, you don’t have immediate symptoms and it is often forgotten about,” Yousuf said. “People think lead was think of the past and we aren’t dealing with it anymore.”

The website home advisor said a majority of homes built before 1960 have the potential for lead contamination and 87% of homes built before 1940 likely have lead paint.

HUD awarded $165 million to 44 local and state government agencies in 23 states. Bloomington was the only grant recipient in Illinois. 

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.