The number of cases of lead poisoning in Minneapolis has plummeted over the last several years, as the city has used about $17 million in grant funding to tackle the problem.
Since 1997, annual reports of lead poisoning in the city have dropped by about 95 percent, from 933 to 45 in 2014, city health officials reported Monday. In a City Council committee meeting, Daniel Huff, director of environmental health, said his team is finishing up work funded by a three-year grant and preparing to continue similar efforts with a new grant.
Federal grant funding provided since 2012 has helped the city inspect more than 250 homes and apartments and perform lead mitigation work on many of them. Many of the city’s older homes have lead paint on walls, windows and exteriors; lead-based paint was outlawed in 1978.
“It’s safe to assume that a majority of our housing” contains lead paint, Huff said.
Children, who sometimes eat paint flakes or pick up lead paint that has turned into household dust, are particularly susceptible to lead poisoning. Exposure to lead, which is also found in soil around Minneapolis, in older pipes and sometimes in toys and household goods, can lead to a variety of health problems, including harming brain development.
Alex Vollmer, a project coordinator with the city, told the council that efforts to get lead paint out of homes has helped with the steep drop-off in the number of poisoning cases. But he said officials also have seen problems from people in lead-safe houses who are using unsafe products, like clay pots that are often used to cook beans. The glaze from the pots can contain lead.
About three-quarters of the properties that have been involved in city lead cleanup efforts are rental properties, and many of them are home to low-income renters. Vollmer and some council members said they see the work on lead removal as part of the city’s broader equity efforts.
“While lead is not predisposed to attack any one individual, we find there are some communities being affected more than others,” he said.