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City of Henderson, UNLV team to get the lead out of older homes

The Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at UNLV is partnering with the city of Henderson’s neighborhood services division to remove lead from older homes.

A grant of more than $2.3 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is aiding the project.

“This is a great way to find out the community’s need and make a difference,” said Shawn Gerstenberger, the interim dean of the school of community health sciences at UNLV

In the past, the university had been working on childhood screenings for lead poisoning. Exposure can occur more often from older homes.

Exposure to lead-contaminated dust can lead to a variety of health-related problems in children such as learning disabilities, developmental delays, reduced height and impaired hearing.

At higher levels of exposure, it can damage kidneys and the central nervous system and cause anemia, convulsions and death.

With those screenings, UNLV was looking for a way to make the home environment safer for children who live in older homes and could be exposed to lead.

The grant allows for lead abatement of those homes.

“This is at no cost to the applicant,” Gerstenberger said.

The city and UNLV plan to address lead hazards in about 80 homes and conduct healthy homes assessments in 50 of the homes during a three-year period.

“This is the first grant anywhere like it in Nevada,” Gerstenberger said.

The program is spreading the word in an effort to gain applicants.

Gerstenberger said he did a door hanger campaign where he went around to homes to pass out information about the program.

The campaign has received one applicant and several calls of interest.

“The first we got, fortunately and unfortunately, had lead,” he said.

In order to get assistance, residents must live in a house that was built before 1978 in Henderson.

Gilbert Medina, a housing specialist with the city of Henderson, said the city has identified 2,500 homes in the city that were built before 1978.

Other requirements include:

The resident must have at least one child who is younger than 5 or be an expectant mother living in or frequently visiting the home, and the family income must be less than 80 percent of the area median income, which is $51,750 for a family of four.

If approved through the initial application process, Medina and Jennifer Berger, a lead hazard and healthy homes specialist, said the house will then be inspected.

“We will look to see if paint is deteriorating, flaking or chipping away,” Berger said.

Using a special instrument, the team can determine if there is lead in any of the layers of paint.

“It will show it at any time in the history of the home,” she added.

If the report shows there is lead, Medina said the house is prepped for abatement.

The grant allows up to $20,000 per home.

He added the process can take 30 to 45 days — with the application process it could be about three months total.

If removing the lead is simple, people can stay in their homes. However, for more complicated matters, families are expected to be relocated during the process.

“We will put them in a hotel located near their children’s school,” Berger said. “A food allowance is available.”

The program is open to homeowners and renters.

“If a renter applies, we will follow up with the homeowner,” Berger said.

Medina said the city has been able to do some lead abatement in the past, but with this grant, it should be able to identify how big of a problem it actually is in older homes.

In addition to lead removal, the city said the grant also allows testing of the children to see how much they were exposed.

About $200,000 of the grant has been set aside for UNLV’s Healthy Home Specialists to look at other health issues such as asthma triggers caused by mold, pests, dust mites or cockroaches; poisoning hazards caused by chemicals or cleaning supplies; and unintentional injuries caused by faulty smoke detectors or stairs that need repairs.

For now, the grant is targeted to work within the city of Henderson. Gerstenberger hopes one day the program can expand efforts into Las Vegas.

For more information, call 702-895-5422.

Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at or 702-387-5201.