Federal officials examine lead paint. Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Federal officials examine lead paint. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

San Diego will use a $3.4 million federal grant to eliminate lead-based paint from older homes, city officials announced Thursday.

Peeling paint containing lead can be picked at and sometimes eaten by small children.

“Childhood lead poisoning is the number one preventable health problem facing children today,” said Mario Sierra, director of the Environmental Services Department, which administers the city’s Lead Safety & Healthy Homes Program.

“I urge residents to understand the danger of lead exposure to our children and help eliminate lead poisoning in San Diego,” he said.

San Diego has an estimated 310,000 homes built before 1978, the year lead-based paint was banned for residential use throughout the country.

Children under 6 are at higher risk because their bodies absorb more lead and their hand-to-mouth activities increase exposure, according to health experts.

Even small amounts of lead can have severe effects on a child’s nervous system and can also cause brain damage, learning disabilities, hearing loss, and reduced muscle and bone growth.

Programs run by the city and area nonprofits over the past dozen years have removed lead-based paint from around 3,000 homes in San Diego.

The money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will help pay for another 150 residences.

The city will make grants available ranging from $4,500 to $10,000 per unit for owner-occupied residences and rental housing.

Eligibility for the program is based on family size and income. The program targets homes in which children under the age of 6 reside or frequently visit, according to the mayor’s office.

— City News Service