HUD Grant Expands Lead Awareness and Remediation Program
In 2016 hazardous levels of lead made headlines in South Bend. Passionate about the health of our community, Dr. Heidi Beidingner-Burnett, associate director for Community Health and Policy with the Center for Civic Innovation, associate professor of the practice in the Department of Biological Sciences, and director of the Master of Science in Global Health program in the Eck Institute for Global Health at Notre Dame moved into action. “It’s absolutely critical that everyone understands there is no safe level of lead, not even at the lowest levels. Lead poisoning can cause devastating, lifelong problems. Children can develop behavioral and cognitive problems that may look like autism or ADHD”, said Beidinger-Burnett.
In response to the early research, Beidinger-Burnett partnered with other UND faculty to form the Notre Dame Lead Innovation Team. Alongside Beidinger-Burnett, ND LIT is lead by Marya Lieberman, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; Graham Peaslee, professor in the Department of Physics and concurrent professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; and Matthew Sisk, associate librarian at Hesburgh Libraries.
With help from interns from the CCI Summer Internship Program in 2019, ND LIT not only raised awareness of the dangers of lead in several neighborhoods in South Bend but also implemented a solution. Their efforts included addressing soil hazards outside homes through low-cost landscaping and teaching proper cleaning techniques inside homes.
Beidinger-Burnett and her team developed low-cost, DIY lead screening kits for individual residents to help identify hotspots of lead in their homes. The kits were developed in 2019 and CCI interns assisted with testing throughout South Bend. Now, thanks to a grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and a partnership with Gabriel Filippelli, Chancellor's Professor of Earth Science and founding director of the Center for Urban Health at IUPUI, the kits will be scaled-up in St. Joseph County and will become available in Marion, Vigo, and Vermillion counties in Indiana. Funding will also support campaigns to raise awareness of the dangers of lead in their communities. “Knowing where the dangers are and what to address first can be critical for providing cost-effective solutions for families,” said Beidinger-Burnett.
The summer of 2020, CCI Interns worked with Beidinger-Burnett to research current mitigation strategies offered by local or state health departments and the efficacy of those strategies. Beidinger-Burnett has plans to build on that work with the CCI Summer internship program in 2021. Using some of the funding from HUD, the team’s goal is two-fold, to increase awareness of the dangers of lead and to develop a lead remediation kit, including protocol for handing them out to homes that are affected by high levels of lead.
To receive a free lead screening kit, visit https://leadinfo.nd.edu/lead-test-kits/.