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New Program Aims To Clean Up Homes In Some of Jackson’s Poorest Neighborhoods

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 22 Aug 2012 04:42pm | comments
Ruth-Anne Norton and Mayor Harvey Johnson.

Every year hundreds of Mississippi children are poisoned by their homes. Lead paint and other environmental hazards slow childhood development and disproportionately affect poor children. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports a new program is starting in Jackson to could improve the health of children in low income neighborhoods.

Roughly three hundred Mississippi kids are identified with lead poisoning every year.

Ruth-Anne Norton with the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative says lead, even in tiny amounts, greatly damages a child's cognitive development.

"Children who are poisoned by lead are 7 times more likely to drop out of school. They lose hundreds of thousands of dollars over a life time in their ability to earn. Lead poisoning, sadly, also contributes to violent behavior and attention deficit disorder. The only cure for lead poisoning is primary prevention," Horton said.

The Green and Healthy Homes Initiative was announced in a poor area of west Jackson where aging wooden homes and chipped lead paint are the norm.

Horton says poor families are more likely to live in homes with lead paint because they often lack the assets to repair them,  which could lead to a wide range health problems.

"A high rate of hypertension in communities can be traced back to lead poisoning. Lead has an impact on malfunctioning kidneys. It has an impact on cardiac arrest. It causes low birth weight babies and still birth. And it has a tremendous impact on brain development," Horton said.

The initial 100-thousand dollar grant for the program is expected to help fix up 50 Jackson homes...but plans are to repair 35-hundred homes and, which could potentially save 325-million dollars in energy and health care costs.

Dwanda Moore with the Foundation for the Mid-South says healthier homes can be a huge benefit to poor families.

"There is less time missed from work. If you are able to go to work you are able to build your financial security. Health children (have) less absences from school.  Again, parents not missing work so they are bale to be there and provide for their families. Children are now able to learn to the best of their ability. Children go on to grow up and be productive citizens," Moore said.

Plans are to take the initiative statewide, which would make Mississippi just the fourth state with the program.

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Ruth-Anne Norton and Mayor Harvey Johnson.


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