BELLOWS FALLS -- Lead Safe and Healthy Homes now has the ability to expand to neighboring towns in New Hampshire due to a $5,000 grant from TransCanada Corporation.
Program Director Michelle Pong said the money will enable the non-profit organization to stretch its Healthy Homes Assessment Program -- a free service offered to homes of pregnant women and those with children 6 or younger -- into the Granite State at long last. Pong said the program involves organization members going into homes to check for indoor environmental health hazards or safety issues.
"It’s been very popular," Pong said. "We’re incredibly enthusiastic because it’s heartbreaking to have to tell people we don’t (have the resources to assist them in New Hampshire).
"But now those limits have been breached," she added.
A program of the Parks Place Community Resource Center, Lead Safe will now offer the program’s services in Walpole, North Walpole, Westmoreland, Charlestown, Chesterfield and Hinsdale, N.H. The process includes an evaluation of paint and air quality, indoor moisture levels and mold issues, fire safety, lead dust sampling, radon testing and in-home accident evaluation.
Lead Safe and Healthy Homes outreach specialist Brianne Dunleavy said the grant money will likely service 10 families in New Hampshire. The program started in Vermont in November.
Dunleavy said she thought applying was a great
"It’s exciting," she said. "Instead of saying, ‘I’m sorry I can’t help you,’ or ‘I’m sorry I can’t do this or that,’ it’s nice to be able to say, ‘Let’s set up an appointment.’"
The new grant money will go toward the purchase of resources for parents in New Hampshire to address indoor hazards -- including dehumidifiers, allergy proof bedding, child proofing supplies, and the free use of high-efficiency particulate air, or HEPA, vacuum cleaners, which can get rid of deteriorated paint, pollen and other fine particles.
Grady Semmens, a spokesman for TransCanada, said the corporation is a North American energy infrastructure particularly active in New England and tries to the communities that host its facilities and their employees. TransCanada owns the Bellows Falls hydroelectric dam.
"(Lead Safe and Healthy Homes) certainly has shown success in promoting health and safety," he said in a telephone interview. He said protecting young children from the dangers of lead and radon are critical to making sure they start their lives healthy.
Ron Rupp, the director of the Lead Hazard Reduction Program of the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, said lead-based paint is the leading cause of lead poisoning and can cause severe physical, behavioral and neurological problems. He mentioned the paint, which was banned from use in 1978, is generally not a major problem unless it is in bad shape.
He said side effects can include poor decision-making, a permanent loss of IQ points and bone problems later in life. Rupp, who has been with the Lead Hazard Reduction Program for 18 years, also said a lot of research shows that many people who routinely enter the prison system due to poor decision-making have a high blood lead content and were more exposed to lead as a child.
Rupp said children 6 years or younger are the most vulnerable and government officials at the state and federal levels have for the past 20 years pushed hard to eliminate lead paint problems.
He said Vermont has a lot of old buildings but Massachusetts and New York banned the production of lead-based paint in 1960, resulting in many homes being free of harmful amounts of lead.
The $5,000 grant is part of a $80,000 commitment TransCanada has made to local nonprofit organizations in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Other beneficiaries include the Vermont River Conservancy and the Ascutney Mountain Audubon Society.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.