The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded more than $131 million in grants for 61 local lead-based-paint projects--from eliminating lead hazards in homes to increasing public awareness about childhood lead poisoning. The largest grant, more than $70 million, is for lead-based-paint abatement in privately owned houses.

Although lead-based paint was banned for home use in 1978, HUD estimates that 24 million dwellings still have significant lead-based-paint hazards. Lead-contaminated dust is the primary cause of lead exposure and can lead to a variety of health problems in young children, including reduced IQ, learning disabilities, developmental delays, reduced height, and impaired hearing. At higher levels, lead can damage a child's kidneys and central nervous system and cause anemia, coma, convulsions, and even death. 

"More than ever, children need safe and healthy homes," HUD secretary Steven Preston said in a statement. 

The HUD funding also includes $3.5 million in demonstration grants to identify and eliminate housing conditions that contribute to disease and injury in children, such as asthma, mold exposure, and carbon monoxide contamination. HUD also is investing $2.1 million to support scientific research into new ways of identifying and eliminating health hazards in housing.

HUD and two federal agencies, the EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, operate the National Lead Information Clearinghouse, where homeowners, property owners, and others can get information about lead hazards and prevention. The Clearinghouse can be reached at 800.424.LEAD or by visiting The information is available in English and Spanish.