In the early- to mid-2000s, Illinois had an estimated 81,000 children with elevated blood lead levels, among the highest in the nation. Several sources of lead exposure can impact children, but windows have the highest levels of lead paint and lead dust compared to any other building component.
Using a unique state-financed bond, the Comprehensive Lead Education, Reduction, and Window Replacement Program (Clear-Win) was enacted in 2007 to prevent poisonings and improve children’s health. Illinois declared that the primary purpose was “to assist residential property owners to reduce lead paint hazards through window replacement in pilot communities.” The program provides grants and loans for low-income properties to participate in a window replacement program. Clear-Win also fixes additional lead-based paint hazards and allows for other minor repairs.
The pilot was conducted in Peoria and in the Englewood and West Englewood neighborhoods of Chicago, communities selected by the state legislature that encompass rural and urban settings and, along with high rates of childhood lead poisoning, had a large quantity of homes built before 1940.
In addition to the program’s health and environmental benefits, it was also designed to support the state’s economy by training workers in lead-safe work practices and carpentry skills and creating market opportunities for Illinois window manufacturers, assemblers, and installers.
The Illinois Department of Public Health administers the program in Peoria in partnership with:
- The Peoria City/County Health Department is responsible for operating the program;
- Two Illinois-based window manufacturers supply the replacement windows at a low bulk purchase price; and
- Building contractors perform the installations.
A certified third party performs clearance testing on all projects by dust wipe sampling to make sure that cleanup has been done properly. If the dust levels are still too high, the contractor has to re-clean until reaching compliance.
Besides Clear-Win, the Peoria City/County Health Department has worked for more than 10 years to eliminate lead poisoning in children in recognition of the fact that three Peoria ZIP codes ranked in the top 10 urban ZIP codes in Illinois for the rate of elevated lead levels in children under age six.
One tool used by the Health Department is funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to create the Lead Hazard Control Program, which provides grants in targeted Peoria ZIP codes for lead mitigation in pre-1978 homes. Once children with lead poisoning are identified and the source is confirmed as household exposure, the grant helps to relocate families to lead-safe homes temporarily while lead hazards are removed.
Between January and August 2016, the lead-abatement program, currently funded by a three-year, $3 million federal grant, has helped the county clean up roughly 47 homes–with more than 700 made lead-safe over the past decade.
The Peoria City/County Health Department also has focused on educating families about the importance of lead testing, highlighting the need for children to be tested for lead poisoning at 9-12 months of age and again at 18-24 months of age.
A recent study of 96 of the more than 400 households served by Clear-Win, including 49 in Peoria, that participated in the original Clear-Win initiative found that average lead dust declined by 44 percent and that, one year later, the levels remained substantially below what they were before the window replacements. Both children and adults pointed to health improvements, including fewer headaches, ear infections, and respiratory allergies for children and fewer cases of sinusitis and hay fever among adults.
Economic benefits were estimated at $5,912,219 compared with a cost of $3,451,841, resulting in a net monetary benefit of $2,460,378. A related evaluation shows that this includes energy saving benefits of $1.5 million, additional market value benefits of nearly $1.57 million, lead poisoning prevention health benefits of nearly $3.6 million, and tax benefits from job creation of $51,000.
In August, 2017, the Health Impact Project, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and Pew Charitable Trusts released: Ten Policies to Prevent and Respond to Childhood Lead Exposure. The Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH), Urban Institute, Altarum Institute, Child Trends and many researchers and partners contributed to the report. TFAH and NCHH worked with Pew, RWJF and local advocates and officials to put together the above case study about lead poisoning and prevention initiatives.
The case study does not attempt to capture everything a location is doing on lead, but aims to highlight some of the important work.