Two new federal grants totaling $6 million will ensure more than 350 area homes are free of health hazards posed to young children by lead-based paint.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today awarded a $2.9 million grant to the Houston Health Department (HHD) and a $3.1 million grant to the Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services (HCPHES). HHD’s total project value will rise to $3.6 million with an additional $750,000 in matching city bond funds from the City of Houston’s Housing and Community Development Department.

“Every family deserves to live in a safe and healthy home where their children can live and thrive,” said Michelle Miller, deputy director of HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes. “We know that housing conditions directly affect the health of occupants, and today’s grants will protect families in Houston from lead exposure and other health and safety hazards such as mold and moisture, radon, pests and asthma triggers.”

Every year nearly 300 Houston children under the age of 6 are confirmed with elevated blood lead levels. The figure could be higher as only about 20 percent of Houston’s 210,474 children are screened for lead poisoning. Similarly in Harris County, of the 21 percent of children under the age of 6 that were tested, 323 children were found to have elevated blood lead levels.

Homes of families with lead-poisoned children will receive priority for the lead-hazard remediation. HHD will remediate about 200 homes and HCPHES more than 150 homes.

“Children living in these dangerous homes will get to succeed in school and in life because of these new funds coming to our community and our local efforts,” said Brenda Reyes, chief of the Bureau of Community and Children’s Environmental Health at HHD.

HHD has eliminated lead hazards in 2,789 homes since 1996 with previous federal grants. HHD targets inner-city neighborhoods, areas more likely to contain older homes with lead-based paint –– the most common source of lead exposure in children.

Over the last ten years, HCPHES has helped improve the quality of life for more than 500 households in Harris County.

“At HCPHES we remain committed to improving the living and health standards for all our Harris County families,” said Dr. Umair Shah, executive director, HCPHES. “The newly awarded funding will help us continue our ongoing work of removing lead-based paint from homes and providing safer living conditions for many low-income families and children.”

Houston residents interested in qualifying in the program can call 832-393-5141. Harris County residents can call 713-274-6374.