"Healthy Home" to Assist Implementation of New City Lead Law

June 19, 2006

The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) has partnered with the SouthWest Area Neighborhood Association (SWAN) and the Rochester Fatherhood Resource Initiative (RFRI) to create a unique resource that will provide city homeowners, renters, landlords, and contractors with education and training in effective, low-cost lead hazard control measures.

The opening of the model “Healthy Home,” located on West Main Street, coincides with the implementation of Rochester’s new lead abatement ordinance which was approved by the city council last December and will go into force on July 1.  The new law requires inspections for lead paint hazards as a part of the city’s certificate of occupancy process.

“The passage the lead abatement ordinance last year was a great victory for the health of Rochester’s children, but the real work is still ahead of us,” said Katrina Korfmacher, Ph.D., community outreach coordinator for URMC’s Environmental Health Sciences Center. “The objective of the Healthy Home is to provide an accessible, hands-on opportunity to increase the community’s awareness of lead and other home environmental health hazards and how to reduce their risk.”

The facility will contain displays that focus on four topics: lead hazards, asthma triggers, household toxic chemicals, and indoor environmental air hazards (radon, carbon monoxide, asbestos).  For each topic, information will be provided on the health impacts, source of hazards, low-cost strategies for addressing the hazards, and community resources to assist individuals in addressing these hazards in their own homes. 

The Healthy Home is the latest is a series of collaborative projects between URMC and community organizations on the topic of lead poisoning prevention.  SWAN, RFRI, and faculty from the Environmental Health Sciences Center have been meeting for two years to plan this project, which is supported by a grant from the Medical Center.  This summer, the Healthy Home will be staffed by interns and adult and youth volunteers from URMC, Leadership Rochester, SWAN and RFRI.  SWAN, a thirty year old community-based organization, will manage the community outreach and educational component of the Healthy Home project.  

“This project is an exciting addition to our ongoing efforts to eliminate lead and other environmental hazards from our neighborhoods,” said Pat Jackson, Executive Director of SWAN.  “The Healthy Home will help us support community residents from Southwest Rochester and beyond in making their home environments safer and healthier for their families.”   

RFRI – an organization that supports, trains, and helps find employment for fathers in economically depressed areas of Rochester – will manage outreach to property managers and coordinate lead safe work practices and other trainings at the home.

Rochester’s new lead ordinance will create a huge need for property owners, managers, and contractors to learn how to safely control lead hazards,” said Larry Burnette, director of RFRI’s Building Economic Empowerment Achieving and Maintaining Stability project.  “The Healthy Home will help meet this need and play an important role in the success of the new law.”

Lead poisoning poses a tremendous health risk for children six years and younger, potentially damaging their central nervous system, kidneys and reproductive systems. Even low levels of lead are harmful and are associated with decreased intelligence, impaired neurobehavioral development, decreased growth, and impaired hearing. The major source of lead exposure among U.S. children is lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust found in housing built before 1978.  The problem of lead poisoning is pervasive in Rochester.  A survey by URMC and Action for a Better Community of the Jay-Orchard and Edgerton neighborhoods in Rochester last summer revealed that almost 90% of housing had signs of exterior paint deterioration.

“As one of the primary providers of health care in the community, we see the health effects of lead exposure every day in our clinics,” said C. McCollister Evarts, M.D., CEO of URMC.  “But we recognize that, as physicians and nurses, there is little that we can do in a clinical setting to address the root cause of this problem.  Instead, we must move beyond the walls of the examining room and into the community and into homes and engage in a coordinated effort to eliminate children’s exposure to lead.”

The Healthy Home is located at 700 West Main Street in Rochester and is open to the public on Wednesdays from 3 to 6 p.m., Saturdays 12 to 3 p.m. or by appointment.  Individuals and groups may schedule visits by contacting Eleanor Coleman at 436-8201 x1391.

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Mark Michaud
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