Cook, McHenry Counties sponsor lead removal program

paint led removal
Photo credit Andrew Burton/Getty Images

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Lead-based paint was banned in 1978, but it's still lurking in many homes built before then.

A new program from Cook and McHenry counties will help remove lead paint from housing. Deanna Durica is the director of lead poisoning prevention for the Cook County Department of Public Health.

"When the law changed in 1978 so that lead could not be added to paint anymore, there was no provision for going around to all of the homes everywhere to remove any lead paint that existed," Durica said.

She said that lead-based paint is mainly only a hazard when it's deteriorating into chips or dust, which can easily expose a young child to harmful levels of lead.

"The stereotypical child who's eating the sweet-tasting paint chips...that's one way it can happen, certainly, but I think more commonly, it's exposure through the dust that is created by the deteriorating paint," Durica said.

Homes built before 1978 with children younger than six living there may be eligible for removal. Renters and homeowners with low to moderate income are encouraged to apply. More information is on the Cook or McHenry county websites.

"We know that [lead exposure] impacts [childrens'] academic success, their ability to learn, it impacts social and emotional development...we see a lot of those soft skills that are really important for academic and social success being more difficult after lead exposure," Durica said.

The lead removal program is funded in both counties by grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.