Memphis receives millions to remove lead paint from homes

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The city of Memphis received millions in grant money Tuesday to continue the process of removing lead-based paint from hundreds of homes across the city.

Memphis is one of the most dangerous cities in the region for lead-paint poisoning. Now families can use this grant to keep their children safe.

Government officials say that more than 50% of the homes in the Memphis area were built before 1978, meaning they either did, or still do, contain lead-based paint that can be poisonous to children and animals.

City government has been working with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development since 1995 to help the lead abatement process, but there’s still a lot of work to do. Data from 2016 to 2019 showed an alarming number of children still exposed to lead poisoning.

Sernorma Mitchell, field office director for HUD, said 1,178 children under the age of 6 have elevated lead levels in their blood.

Because of the high risk in Memphis, the city was given $5.6 million to renovate over 300 homes.

“These funds allow us to be able to address those units," said Paul Young, director of the city's Housing and Community Development. "We’re able to go in and make renovations for those families that have kids present. And we’re able to make those homes more safe.”

Medical experts said that, even in light of elevated levels of lead in the water at some Shelby County Schools, lead poisoning through paint is actually the most frequent and dangerous lead exposure that children can have. Young students that don’t know any better might accidentally ingest lead, leading to potentially serious health issues.

Dr. Alisha Haushalter, director of the Shelby County Health Department, said that number needs to come down.

“It’s going to take multiple partnerships, and focusing on the home environment is actually the main priority, because that’s where children are generally likely to be exposed, is at home,” she said.

Young said the city expects that the public will be able to apply for renovation or remediation of their home starting in late January.

Applicants are asked to visit memphishcd.org for more information.

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