(WKBN) – Mahoning County is getting more than $6 million to fix lead-based paint hazards. It’s very important to help remove them to protect children and families from the health effects of lead exposure.

A test for lead poisoning is simple. It is recommended for children ages 1 and 2, but certainly before age 6 because lead poisoning can be dangerous.

“Lead poisoning can cause permanent damage. It can affect the brain, nervous system, kidneys, any system of the body. They can have learning disabilities, speech delay, hearing problems, hyperactivity, behavioral problems, some say ADHD,” said Mary Ann Turschak.

Turschak runs the Mercy Health lead testing program which offers testing for children in our community.

Any home built before 1978 could have lead paint. Kids can get lead poisoning from eating paint chips or inhaling the dust.

“Prevention is the key here so I tell them to, you know, wash the kids’ hands before they eat, before bed,” Turschak said.

The grant money, totaling $6,251,500, was awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD awarded $5,700,000 in Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control and $700,000 in Healthy Homes grant funding to Mahoning County. It will help continue the testing and the work to make homes lead safe for families.

“This is a big shot in the arm. It’s the biggest one we’ve gotten in 25 years,” said Phillip Puryear with Mahoning County Healthy Homes & Lead Hazard Control.

The money will support fixing 200 more homes.

Almost 90 percent of the homes in Youngstown were built before 1978, when lead was used in house paint. The Mahoning County Lead Hazard Control Strategy is to find them, make repairs and educate owners.

“There’s a lot of homes that have the stock and the lead-based paint we’re looking for. So to make them safe, it’s a continual process. It’s not going to go away until all the pre-1978 homes are dead and gone,” Puryear said.

Sixty-four high-risk census tracks have been identified in the Mahoning Valley. The money will be used over the next four years to fix more of the lead hazards.