Two house painters in hazmat suits removing lead paint from an old house.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) was awarded a $3.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to fund work protecting families from lead hazards in the southeastern region of the state, Red Lake Nation News reports. The state health department will deliver services in partnership with the city of Rochester and local community organizations in 11 counties. The grant period is for 42 months.

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.”

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.

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.

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