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What the city is doing to help 50 kids suffering from lead poisoning

RICHMOND, Va. – Doctors diagnosed 159 Richmond children with elevated lead levels last year, according to Dan Mouer with the City's Department of Economic and Community Development and their housing and neighborhood division project development manager.

Right now, the Richmond City Health District works with roughly 50 kids with high enough lead levels that they're considered poisoned.

"It affects their motor skills, it affects their learning, they have learning disabilities," Yvonne Johnson, Outreach Education Coordinator with the Richmond City Health Department's Lead Safe Healthy Homes Program, said.

"I've seen where kids have had bands of green on their gums because they've had so much lead," she said.

But for the first time since 2003, the City of Richmond will receive more than $2.7 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to remove lead-based paint from 150 homes and apartments in the city that are considered low-income.

"We were lucky this time, thank God, and we can help the citizens of Richmond," Johnson said.

The city applied for the grant funding from HUD.

Alphonso Ferrell and his son Jahim are soon moving into a new apartment in Richmond's Northside, in an area that city officials said historically had the highest rate of lead poisoned kids in the city.

"I wouldn't even really know how to act if he were to get sick like that," Ferrell said.

Alphonso Ferrell and his son Jahim

Johnson said Richmond has a high number of homes built before 1978, which was when lead-based paint stopped being used, so tens-of-thousands of homes still have lead-based paint in them.

Lead paint tastes sweet so kids like to eat it.

"Do you find that these children that are poisoned are in low-income homes where they just couldn't afford to get rid of the lead based paint?" CBS 6 reporter Melissa Hipolit asked Johnson.

"Yes, we do. It's a sad thing," Johnson said.

If you're interested in learning more about the program, call the City Health Department at 804-205-3500.

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