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Study on lead paint in local housing seeks to better define problem, solutions

WBFO file photo/Dan Telvock, Investigative Post

The City of Buffalo is known to have thousands of houses with lead paint, on their inside walls, window frames or on their exteriors. A group of local foundations is putting the finishing touches on a report that will better define where the problem of lead poisoning risk is more prominent.

Over the past year, the City of Buffalo inspected more than 5,000 structures and issued 574 letters of violation to the respective property owners. More than 10,000 tenants of rental properties within the city, meanwhile, returned signed forms confirming they were made aware of the likelihood of lead paint in their homes.

It's well-known that the City of Buffalo has thousands of structures, built before 1978, that still contain lead paint. Lead exposure in children has been linked to stunted mental development and behavioral problems. 

A forthcoming study aims to better define where the problems are greater, and what policy solutions may be most effective.

"It was a collaborative effort with the Center for Governmental Research, whom we commissioned to do this," said Cara Matteliano, Vice President of Community Impact for the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, one of several not-for-profit agencies co-sponsoring the study. "They have completed a similar study for the City of Rochester. It's been very effective for Rochester. Also, the Partnership for the Public Good has been involved in the Buffalo end, interviewing community folks."

Matteliano identified the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County as another partner backing the study. The City of Buffalo is covering one-third of the funding for the project.

This study, according to Matteliano, is one that will utilize both the City of Buffalo's housing data and Erie County's lead poisoning data. 

She noted that the presence of lead in homes is not necessarily limited to the City of Buffalo, pointing out that many suburban homes are also built before lead was legally removed from paints.

"If your house is built before 1978 and many are, especially in the first-ring suburbs, your house almost undoubtedly has lead paint in it somewhere," she said. "Especially in those window wells. People don't paint those very often and they're friction surfaces, so they move up and down and create dust that blows into your house if you're not careful."

The report is expected to be completed and released in about six to eight weeks.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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