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Milwaukee health director calls federal funding cut horrible timing

MILWAUKEE (WTAQ) - Milwaukee’s health director says a loss of federal funds will cut in half the numbers of homes where lead-based paint will be removed this year.

Paul Biedrzycki says the timing of the cut is horrible.

That’s because a UW-Madison report last week said kids exposed to lead-based paint are three times more likely to be suspended from school by the 4th grade.

The study analyzed data in the Milwaukee Public Schools, which found that African-American youngsters are three times as likely as whites to be suspended – and lead paint exposure accounts for 23 percent of the difference.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Wisconsin Partnership Program funded the study.

Lead was banned from paint in 1978. Milwaukee officials said 130,000 homes were built before 1950 and are at risk for causing lead-paint exposure.

Biedrzycki said just over 16,000 of those homes have had cleanups from lead abatement teams. The abatements cost around $5,000 each.

Also, Milwaukee has been aggressive in promoting lead tests for children. As a result, Biedrzycki said lead poisoning in children under 6 has dropped from 34 percent in 1997, to just over 3 percent today.