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Lead Removal Program Provides Free Training, Paint

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – A new initiative to help area homeowners remove lead paint was unveiled Monday by Erie County officials and several business and non-profit partners.

The program, titled "Lead Connection," is funded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. County Health Commissioner Dr. Anthony Billittier gathered with partners outside a home on Sprenger Street in the city's Schiller Park neighborhood. Billittier says the owner of the rental dwelling received free training, paint and other supplies.

"This is a program where we empower individuals to handle their problems," Billittier said. "We educate them. We provide them with needed supplies. Any time the government can do that, I think government is doing a good things and is providing a good service to its community."

Statistics from the State Health Department indicate that seven Erie County zip codes rank in the top 20 statewide for the prevalence of lead poisoning. It can lead to learning disabilities in children. And it was that impact on children that convinced the owner of 196 Sprenger, Henry Olomo, to do something for his tenants.

"I have six children myself, and I wouldn't want any of them to go through this," Olomo said. "That kind of gave me an incentive to have something done. I didn't want to be a slum landlord, but somebody who cares about the community."

Lead paint doesn't pose a threat if it's intact. But once it begins to peel or disintegrate into dust, it can have an effect on people's health.

Federal officials say their goal is to eradicate childhood lead poisoning by 2010.