More than half of New Hampshire’s housing stock was built before lead was banned from use in residential buildings, according to figures from the U.S. Census.
And according to Elliott Berry, an attorney who works on housing issues with New Hampshire Legal Assistance, that puts lots of people at risk — especially young kids in low-income neighborhoods, where a lot of that housing is concentrated.
“With a housing stock as old as ours, especially so much of it that is wood structures that are commonly painted, there’s still just a huge inventory of homes that are potentially dangerous to children," Berry says.
Now, New Hampshire Legal Assistance is hoping to use a newly announced $450,000 grant to step up efforts to prevent childhood lead poisoning in the state. The money comes from a nationwide settlement with Bank of America related to its role in the 2008 housing crisis.
In New Hampshire, the money will go toward education and outreach to prevent lead poisoning, with an emphasis on refugee communities. It’ll also support efforts to change state lead safety laws and help landlords get rid of lead hazards on their properties, among other initiatives.
"It has long term, indeed lifetime effects that really further disadvantages low-income children, particularly, when they are already facing plenty of other impediments to having a successful life," Berry says of the consequences of lead exposure among children.
If a family suspects its home is at risk, Berry says it’s important to have a licensed lead assessor check it out. Local public health departments also offer resources on how to safely deal with lead.