News release: State receives $3.3 million to reduce lead, other health hazards in southeastern area homes

News Release
December 18, 2019

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State receives $3.3 million to reduce lead, other health hazards in southeastern area homes

Grant work will target areas with older homes, children with elevated blood lead levels

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has been awarded a $3.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to fund work protecting families from lead and other household hazards in southeastern Minnesota. MDH will deliver these services in partnership with the City of Rochester and local community organizations in Dodge, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Rice, Steele, Wabasha and Winona counties.

According to MDH data, southeastern Minnesota has higher rates of elevated blood lead levels in children compared with the state average. Factors contributing to these higher rates include the region’s high percentage of older homes painted with lead-based paint, its relatively high proportion of low-income families, and the region’s shortage of newer housing for its growing population. Many families living in older homes are unable to afford to maintain or rehabilitate them, exposing children to lead dust and other hazards.

“Lead-based paint in older homes remains the single greatest cause of elevated lead levels in Minnesota children,” said Stephanie Yendell, lead poisoning prevention program supervisor for MDH. “Addressing sources of lead and other household hazards in homes in this region will go a long way toward protecting the health of children for years to come.”

MDH plans to partner with the City of Rochester and local community action and housing redevelopment agencies currently serving the region with programs such as weatherization, housing rehabilitation loans for low-income families, and housing redevelopment.

“By working with this existing infrastructure, we will be able to leverage resources while serving more families, raise awareness about lead and healthy homes hazards and increase the pool of contractors in the area qualified to perform lead abatement and renovation work,” Yendell said.

The grant will allow for lead hazard reduction work in 151 housing units, at least 31 of which will be in the City of Rochester.

“As home to Mayo Clinic and Destination Medical Center, Rochester has a unique responsibility to ensure health equity for all of our residents – especially those who are living in poverty,” said Cindy Steinhauser, Community Development Director for the City of Rochester. “By working with partner organizations such as the Rochester Area Builders, we can extend our influence beyond the city limits, helping to achieve lead hazard reduction throughout the southeast Minnesota region.”

The grant will prioritize connecting families whose children already have elevated blood lead levels to lead hazard reduction resources, but will also provide primary prevention to families whose children have not yet had elevated blood lead levels. This work aligns with MDH’s goal and its ongoing Centers for Disease Control-supported initiatives to advance health equity by eliminating exposure to lead hazards in the homes of low-income Minnesota families.

Funding for the grant is provided through HUD’s Lead Based Paint Hazard Reduction Program to identify and clean up dangerous lead in low-income housing. The grant period is 42 months.

More information about lead in the environment and the health risks of lead exposure are available on the MDH Lead webpage.


Media inquiries:

Doug Schultz
MDH Communications