By Johnny Veglia
Allentown’s relationship with housing is complicated. The historic homes and buildings in Allentown have a variety of issues, from mold to lead paint. “A lot of people don’t realize that any house built before 1978 has got lead in it and some of the houses built the next few years do because ‘78 was when they outlawed lead being put in paint,” said Chuck Weiss, Associate Executive Director of Housing for Community Action of the Lehigh Valley (CALV). “But people have to realize that some of that paint was in inventory and on the shelves for another couple of years.”
CALV is trying to tackle the issue through the Lead Abatement Program that is one of the most extensive methods of lead removal. CALV has renovated about ten homes so far and families need to vacate the house during the process. No matter the program, CALV utilizes contractors and other housing officials to get rid of lead in homes. Lead in paints can be found in the wood surrounding windows which means a breeze would allow the lead to be airborne.
Contractors for CALV have to go through a lead-training program to make sure they can safely remove lead and improve the living quality of the house. “There was a recent article out that said that basically we got more lead in Northampton County than Flint, Michigan does,” said Weiss. “I mean, we technically may because we have a lot of really old homes, you know, and we have homes dating back to the sixteen hundreds in Northampton County and Bethlehem and Allentown.” Lead poisoning can be extremely dangerous, especially for younger families.
According to the CDC, lead poisoning can lead to lower IQs for children and underperformance in education settings. This can cause lasting damage for children in a space that is supposed to be safe and liveable.
CALV’s main focus is on lead, but mold and other problems are more potential issues. “When we go in for any kind of work, we’re also going to look for mold and other health issues,” said Weiss. “And mold remediation is pretty simple to do, it’s really not as complicated as it once was.”