UNLV team works to get the lead out of Henderson homes

Michelle Ching holds the X-ray fluorescence machine and points it at a wall, waiting eight seconds for the reading to come through.

With a ping, the machine is done scanning through several layers of paint.

“It’s zero point zero,” she said to one of the other workers.

They are going from room to room in a Henderson home searching for lead paint.

The Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at UNLV has been partnering with the city of Henderson’s neighborhood services division to remove lead from older homes. The project is part of a $2.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

UNLV previously had worked on childhood screenings for lead poisoning. Exposure can occur more often in older homes and cause harm and developmental delays to children.

“In the past, we’ve had a backward way of testing for lead,” said Shawn Gerstenberger, the interim dean of the school of community health sciences at UNLV. “We test children, and if they test positive for lead, then we test the house.”

Sarah Holloway was one of the applicants who applied to have her home screened. Her grandmother has lived in the same house in an older part of Henderson for 34 years. Holloway has lived there with her children for the past two years.

“But this house has always been healthy to me,” she said.

After receiving a flier about the program, she and her grandmother discussed applying for the program.

In December, they reached out to UNLV to schedule an inspection Jan. 31.

“We do all the walls, baseboards and window seals,” said Ching, a health home specialist. “We check everything. We don’t want to assume.”

The process can take three to six hours depending on the house.

Lead has to read between .8 and 1.2 micrograms per cubic centimeter for it to be deemed dangerous.

If a house shows a reading in that range, the program allows for it to go through lead abatement.

The city is slated to help the homeowners find contractors for the project.

Some of the windows and door frames in Holloway’s had been replaced after the 1988 explosion of the PEPCON factory. But some of the original attributes are still there.

Gerstenberger said the program has reached out to the community.

“We recently went into some schools in Henderson,” he said. “The principals were gracious enough to let us come in and pass out fliers for students to take home.”

There have been several phone calls as a result.

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

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

Residents 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.

Even if the house has multiple coats of paint, the machine can read lead if it’s there.

Gerstenberger said without the program, the process for lead inspection can cost between $600 and $1,000.

If a house tests positive, treatment can be close to $10,000.

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.

Gerstenberger said applicants have to agree to go through the lead abatement process to receive the healthy home services.

For more information, call 702-895-5422.

Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at mlyle@viewnews.com or 702-387-5201.

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