This is an updated version of a story first published on June 4, 2023.
Lead paint a hazard in most older homes
Melissa Hudson is looking forward to the summer break from school. That’s because the Camden neighborhood resident will be able to spend even more time than usual with her nine precious grandchildren. She’s planning regular visits to the playground and the Dairy Queen on N. Lyndale Ave with her grandkids in tow.
“I keep three of them five days a week and two of them every other weekend,” said Hudson, 58. “We love to have slumber parties. We eat pizza, have juice boxes, and get under the covers and watch movies. We just have so much fun.”
But recently, an inspection revealed the three-bedroom home that Hudson bought more than 20 years ago showed evidence of lead paint, posing a danger to her young grandchildren. “I didn’t know anything about this until they did testing at my house. I was so scared to hear this,” Hudson said.
Scientists and physicians have long known that lead exposure is especially dangerous for young children and can have serious, long-term effects on their development, including permanent neurological damage. Every year about 200 children in Hennepin County are found to have blood lead levels high enough to damage their health.
The government banned lead paint in 1978, but 75 percent of homes built before 1978 still contain some lead-based paint. Hudson’s Northside home was built in 1918.
But this story has a happy ending. Hudson’s home is now not only safe for her grandchildren, but it also got a major upgrade. Thanks to a grant from Hennepin County, Hudson got 10 old windows that had been coated in lead paint replaced with brand new energy efficient windows.
“In windows in older homes there’s a friction surface, and when they are opened and closed, the grinding creates fine lead dust from the paint that gets on the window sills, wells and the floor,” said Kelly Koch, the Hennepin County project manager who worked with Hudson.
“Windows are the perfect height for little children; they pull themselves up and get the fine dust on their hands and then of course their hands go into their mouths,” she added. “Even if you wash the sills and the floors there can be exposure, and there is no safe level for lead.”
As part of the program, Hennepin County even pays for families to relocate while the repair and replacement work is going on so they face no danger from the hazardous work. Hudson spent three nights in a hotel when her new windows were installed and some peeling paint on her porch ceiling was enclosed.
“We work with families through the whole process. We have our own list with contractors who hold the correct licenses and certifications, so the homeowners don’t have to go out and find the person to do the work,” Koch said.
Up to $15,000 in grant money for lead abatement and remediation work is available for eligible homeowners and landlords who have children under six at home or, like Hudson, have young children who are frequent visitors.
The new windows have been a welcome addition for Hudson. “It’s safer, number one, but it’s much nicer and we don’t have to worry about this,” she said.
“Any homeowner who might have lead paint should do this. I don’t want to think of any child who could be harmed by lead. Get it done.”
To find out more about the Hennepin County lead program and if you are eligible for a grant for your home, go to hennepin.us/leadcontrol or call the hotline at 612-543-4182.