New windows, new view

Northeast Minneapolis family one of 4,200 to reduce lead hazards in home

Northeast Minneapolis family one of 4,200 to reduce lead hazards in home

Due to the health risk it could pose to their two young children, Kevin and Michele Ross didn’t open the windows in their Northeast Minneapolis home for months.

When the family moved into their 1955 home about a year ago, they knew some of the windows contained lead-based paint. This fall, with the help of Hennepin County’s lead control program, they were able to open their windows without worry.

"We basically didn't open the windows until we got work done,” Michele Ross said. "It's nice just being able to open the windows. We can get all that fresh air in now.”

The Ross family is one of more than 4,200 families to partner with Hennepin County’s lead control program to fix lead paint hazards in their home.

Eligible homeowners can receive as much as $8,000 of funding assistance through the program, along with a free $550 paint inspection and risk assessment. Rental property owners may also be eligible for assistance.

After finding out about the program through friends, the Ross family decided to participate to keep their three-year-old twins, Jude and Margaret, safe.

Health effects of lead poisoning

Children six years old or younger living or frequently visiting homes built before 1978 – the year lead paint was banned – are especially at risk for lead poisoning. While exploring their surroundings, young children may swallow lead dust by licking surfaces or putting objects into their mouths.

Lead poisoning causes a number of health problems for children, whose brains are still developing, including:

  • Brain and nervous system damage
  • Slowed growth and development
  • Learning and behavior problems
  • Hearing and speech problems

A blood lead test is the only way to know if someone has been exposed to lead. In 2015, nearly 400 Hennepin County children who had blood lead tests had lead levels high enough to potentially damage their health.

Sources of lead exposure

Besides windows, there are a number of other possible sources of lead exposure at home, including a home’s exterior, flooring, window sills or soil in the yard.

Through the results of the inspection completed by Hennepin County, Michele and Kevin Ross discovered that their home’s kitchen floor tiles also contained a lead-based paint hazard.

County staff told the family that they do not need to replace the tiles, but will need to be careful if they do any remodeling. As part of the grant requirements, they attended a free class explaining how their family can make safe renovations.

Fixing hazards in homes, one family at a time

After testing the home and consulting with the family, Hennepin County selected a contractor to replace some of the windows in their home. When the work passed clearance, the family returned home to enjoy safe, energy-efficient windows.

“Those small things make a difference. We have new windows and a new view as well,” Kevin Ross said.

Michele Ross also reflected on her experience working with Hennepin County’s lead-based paint program and said she recommends it to other families.

"I thought it was great. If we had done this ourselves, we'd have to wait years. It was pretty seamless for us,” she said.