National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is October 23-29th

National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is October 23-29th, 2011.  Children under age 6 are most at risk for lead poisoning.  You can prevent lead poisoning by getting your home tested, getting your child tested and getting the facts.

  • Lead is a metal that is found in many places.  You can’t always see lead, even when it is present in substances like paint, dust, or dirt.
  • Lead in the body is not safe at any level.  It only takes a very small amount to cause damage.
  • Childhood lead poisoning can lead to life-long health problems, including learning disabilities, increased need for special education and higher crime rates.  Lead harms the brain, making it harder for children to learn and can cause behavioral problems.
  • Most children do not have any physical symptoms.  Warning signs include:  stomach pains, constipation, poor appetite, sleep problems, irritability, headaches, weakness, or loss of a recently learned skill.
  • Children are most often exposed to lead in their home and at places they visit.
  • Lead was added to paint until 1978.
  • In housing built before 1978, assume that the paint has led unless tests show otherwise.
  • Children eat lead by getting lead on their hands and then putting their hands in their mouth.
  • Make sure your child does not have access to peeling paint or chew-able surfaces painted with lead-based paint by creating barriers between living/play areas and lead sources.  You can temporarily apply contact paper or duct tape to cover spaces with sources of lead.
  • Regularly wash your children’s hands and toys.  Both can become contaminated from household dust or exterior soil.
  • Regularly wet-mop floors and wet-wipe windows–dry-dust, sweeping or vacuuming will spread lead dust.
  • Wipe dirt off shoes before coming inside your home.
  • Whenever new exposures to lead may have occurred, have your child tested.
  • DO NOT disturb paint without protecting your family from the dust that occurs during abatement.
  • Feed your child 3 healthy meals a day–a diet high in iron, calcium and Vitamin C will help fight any lead in a child’s body.
  • Do not use pottery for cooking or serving until you are sure of its glaze.  Pottery can be contaminated with lead.
  • Draw drinking water and cooking water only from the cold tap.  Let it run for a few minutes first.
  • Teach your child to wash their hands before eating.

The City of Chicago provides FREE lead inspections to homes with children under 6 years old and/or with children under 6 who frequently visit, call 311 and ask for lead inspection TODAY.

For information about tenants’ rights: call Megan Borneman, MTO Healthy Homes Organizer… 773-292-4980 ext. 231

For resources available to Chicago residents:  call the Chicago Department of Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention… 312-747-LEAD (5323)

For resources available to non-Chicago residents in Cook County:  call the Cook County Lead Prevention Program… 708-492-2076

How to Guide for Clean-Up of Flooded Homes

From the National Center for Healthy Housing:

A guide developed to help homeowners and contractors safely clean up homes damaged in the recent floods caused by Hurricane Irene is available immediately. Creating a Healthy Home: A Field Guide for Clean-up of Flooded Homes is a do-it-yourself booklet that provides easy, step-by-step instructions on how to handle mold removal in flooded homes before starting to rebuild or renovate. Agencies working directly with individuals impacted by the floods can also order a shipment of printed booklets to distribute to those needing assistance. Please call the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) at 877.312.3046 for more information.

A weekend of heavy rain has brought flooding problems to communities all along the East Coast of the United States. Officials in Vermont are calling it the worst storm since 1927. Many homes have already endured extensive damage and required evacuation; and in many places the water is still on the rise.

“Our hearts go out to the families dealing with the loss of lives and homes caused by this Hurricane Irene. Recovering from a flood can be overwhelming. We hope this guide will help families reduce the damage to their homes and prevent mold growth” said Rebecca Morley, Executive Director of NCHH, based in Columbia, MD. “Mold exposure may cause allergic reactions, such as asthma attacks, sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash. Even dead mold spores pose a risk, especially for children and adults with respiratory problems,” said Morley.

In 2005, NCHH researched and wrote the guide with funding and technical support from Enterprise Community Partners, a leading national community development organization. The instructional guide documents a protocol that was tested on four homes in New Orleans following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In a home that experienced at least five feet of standing water for at least two weeks and had mold growth up to the ceiling, the protocol reduced the mold to non-detectable levels.

Acting quickly and removing standing water and water-damaged materials within the first 48 hours is critical for preventing mold growth. NCHH recommends the following steps for cleaning up flooded homes.

  • Remove standing water and dry out the building as soon as you can. Open doors and windows. Mop up or pump out any standing water.
  • Use a mild detergent and water to clean and remove mold from hard surfaces.
  • Use fans and dehumidifiers to remove moisture after cleaning. Be careful not to blow mold around while drying—point fans to blow outside.
  • Throw away moldy things that can not be cleaned, such as carpets and carpet padding, upholstered furniture, drywall, wood molding, fiberglass or cellulose insulation, and ceiling tiles.
  • If there is more than 10 square feet (about 3 ft. X 3 ft.) of mold in your house, consider using a professional mold clean-up contractor. Do not hire a contractor who recommends fogging or spraying as a way to clean up mold. Moldy materials must be removed from the building.
  • Wipe dry or allow all surfaces to fully air-dry before doing any more work. Make sure that the home is allowed to completely dry before beginning restoration.
  • Additionally, to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, residents are reminded not to operate generators within buildings. In the case of power outages, generators should only be operated outside of an enclosed space.

National housing organizations Enterprise Community Partners, NCHH, and NeighborWorks®America partnered with NeighborWorks Organization and Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans to develop the clean-up protocols. Columbia University and Tulane University provided expertise for the demonstration project. The guide was developed through the generous support of The Home Depot Foundation.

When Bed Bugs Attack

Bed bugs have returned, invading our hospitals, hotels, public transportation, and most unsettling of all, our homes. While bed bugs do not transmit disease, bed bugs have proven to be a serious nuisance to homeowners and renters alike, across the nation.

While New York City leads the nation in reported incidents of bed bug infestations, according to an August 2010 report released by Terminix, the Windy City does not find itself far behind – we live in the fifth most bed bug infested city in the U.S. MTO can certainly attest to this, as hotline calls pertaining to bed bugs have increased dramatically in the last two years. In 2010, MTO received 313, usually very frantic, calls with complaints of bed bugs. Two years ago, bed bug calls to MTO’s hotline were nonexistent.

In response to this sudden reemergence of bed bugs in Chicago, MTO has led efforts to create a roundtable of representatives from HUD, EPA, Chicago Department of Public Health, Illinois Department of Public Health, and other invested agencies and community organizations. MTO is actively working with this group on creating a policy proposal for HUD subsidized buildings. Among other recommendations,  MTO has proposed the following to be included in a HUD policy on bed bugs:

-Landlords should disclose any known bed bug infestations within the previous 12 months to prospective renters,

-HUD should support an initiative for an educational campaign on bed bugs and pest control,

-Landlords should hire certified/licensed pest control professionals for both bed bug inspections and treatments,

-Landlords should encourage tenant notification of bed bug sightings by never retaliating against tenants (e.g. imposing fees, threatening eviction, etc),

-and HUD should allocate a long term source of funding to help landlords and renters combat bed bug infestations.

MTO is working on the bed bug issue at the state level as well. Meron Kahssai, an MTO Healthy Homes Organizer, has been appointed to the Illinois Subcommittee on Bed Bugs, a subcommittee of the Illinois Structural Pest Control Advisory Council. MTO will serve on this subcommittee as the voice of renters and will provide the necessary insight on the plight of renters to the other members of the state’s bed bug subcommittee. The goal of this subcommittee is to create a report with recommendations to the IL General Assembly on the prevention, management, and control of bed bugs which include recommendations on an educational campaign, proper transport and disposal of bed bug infested materials, and best practices of treatment and eradication.

Tenants who have dealt with bed bugs are encouraged to join MTO’s bed bug committee. This committee is open to anyone who is interested in serving the need of renters affected by bed bugs by pushing policies for both subsidized and market rate renters. Please contact Meron Kahssai at 773-292-4980 ext. 229, if interested.

Bed bugs will be the topic of discussion at the January 20th Tenant Congress meeting at the Chicago Urban League (4510 S. Michigan). Following a presentation on bed bugs, the floor will be open for a question and answer session. This meeting is open to the public.

Lead – FAQ

Know the facts about lead:

  • What is lead? Lead is a heavy metal that is harmful to your health.
  • Where is lead found? The most common sources of lead are found in the home! Chipping paint and dust in homes built prior to 1978, tap water, soil and some toys and jewelry are the most common sources of lead. You can’t always see lead, even when it is present.
  • What amount of lead is safe? Lead in the body is not safe at ANY level.  It only takes a very small amount to cause life-long health problems, including learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and other health issues.
  • What are the long-term effects of lead poisoning? Lead can damage organs, stunt neurological development and may even cause death.
  • What are some of the warning signs of lead poisoning? Stomach pains, constipation, poor appetite, sleep problems, headaches, issues with sleeping.
  • How do I know if I have lead in my home? If your home was built prior to 1978, there is a good chance there is lead in your home but the only way to positively identify lead is with testing. The Department of Health offers free testing if your child has recently been found with elevated levels of lead.
  • Who’s responsible for addressing lead sources in the home? The landlord is responsible. Under federal law, at the start of a tenancy, the landlord must provide tenants with a lead disclosure form that details any known lead hazard in your unit or the common areas and a copy of the EPA booklet “Protect Your Family from Lead in your Home“. Under 2004 Childhood Lead Prevention Act, the landlord must also post a notice if a lead hazard has been found in another unit. That notice must remain posted until all documented hazards are properly repaired.
  • What if the landlord refuses to address lead sources? Call the Renter’s Hotline at 773-292-4988 M-F, 1-5pm or call the city of Chicago’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention program at 312.747.LEAD[5323]. You may request an inspection. If the landlord refuses to make repairs and old paint is pulling away from the wall, cracking, chipping or peeling and it is a code violation, you can give the landlord a 14-day written notice to reduce your rent. See “Apartment Repairs and Conditions
  • What can I do to reduce the risk of exposure? 
    • Ask your doctor to test your child for lead
    • Regularly wet-mop floors and wet-wipe windows
    • Remove shoes when entering the home
    • Teach your children to wash their hands before eating
    • Do not use pottery for cooking or serving without knowing if the glaze has lead
    • Do not disturb paint without protecting your family from the dust
    • Feed your child a diet high in iron, calcium and vitamin C – all help fight lead in the child’s body
    • Test your water for lead and use a EPA approved filter
    • Test soil around home and do not plant a garden before confirming that soil is safe
    • Regularly check recall lists for toys, jewelry and other household items which may have lead

Still can’t find the answer? Send us your questions. Please allow several days for a response. Or to speak with a Healthy Homes Organizer, call 773.292.4980 ext. 225.