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Letter to the Editor: Demolitions Must Be Done With Lead Safety in Mind

By Submitted Report
The Tube City Almanac
July 24, 2018
Posted in: Letters to the Editor

Abandoned house awaiting demolition in Maryland. (Amy McGovern photo via Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons --- Attribution 2.0 Generic.)

Reader Ray Firth writes:

Regarding your July 13 story, "172 Houses Head to Demolition; At Least 50 More to Be Added."

The demolition of blighted properties in McKeesport --- part of the "McKeesport Rising" project --- is important for McKeesport and the families who live near them. The homes being demolished are in terrible shape and old.

These homes also probably have lead paint on the windows, doors and walls.

The 200-plus demolitions will cause a lot of dust when the crews push the houses to the ground, and load the debris into dump trucks. That dust will have lead in it from the old lead paint.

In similar projects in other cities, that dust spread to nearby neighborhoods. They found that more children in those nearby neighborhoods had lead in their blood than before the demolitions.

Unfortunately, even small amounts of lead in a child’s blood goes to their brain, and harms important parts of their brain. The damage is permanent.

To prevent children from being harmed, lead paint and dust with lead in it needs to be contained or removed from where the child lives and plays. Otherwise, they are at risk of starting elementary school at a permanent disadvantage.

Some families in McKeesport (or other communities in Allegheny County) may be eligible to have their homes tested for the presence of lead. If lead is there, home repairs can be made.  To be eligible to have their residence inspected for lead:

    The family needs to be a homeowner or renter in Allegheny County;
    The family’s residence needs to have been built before 1978;
    The residence has a pregnant woman who lives there, or
                    A child under 6 lives there, or
                    A child under 6 visits the residence regularly;

Their pre-tax income needs to be below a certain amount, depending on the size of their family.

If a child lives in the home, the child does NOT need to have a high blood lead level. This is a program that prevents lead poisoning.

If you are concerned that dust and debris from a demolition has created a lead hazard at your home, and you think you might be eligible for the Allegheny Lead Safe Homes program, call their hotline at (412) 227-5700.

The program is not limited to families living near a demolition site. If you live in Allegheny County and the above describes your residence and family, please call (412) 227-5700 to see if you are eligible and the program can be of assistance. 

--- Ray Firth is a retired policy initiatives director in the Office of Child Development at the University of Pittsburgh. He lives in Monroeville.

Tube City Community Media is committed to printing viewpoints from residents of the McKeesport area and surrounding municipalities. Commentaries are accepted at the discretion of the editor and may be edited for content or length.

To submit a commentary for consideration, please write to P.O. Box 94, McKeesport 15134, or email tubecitytiger -at - gmail -dot- com. Include contact information and your real name. A pen name may be substituted with approval of the editor.

Originally published July 24, 2018.

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