November 9, 2021

Lead testing expands in Indianapolis

Lead paint flaking. File photo

Lead paint flaking. File photo

A new project aims to expand lead testing in Marion County. The Center for Urban Health at IUPUI has partnered with the Indianapolis Public Library to offer free lead kits to residents. WFYI’s Jill Sheridan talked to IUPUI Program Manager Angela Herrmann who heads a local effort to increase testing of the hazardous element.

Sheridan: We know more than ever now that there are lead hazards in the soil, in the water, in all sorts of places in our environment. As we as we seek to find out more about this, can you tell us a little bit about the ongoing work at the center when we're doing lead testing.

Herrmann: The project that I'm directly involved with is a project that's funded by HUD. And it was a project that was originally started at the University of Notre Dame. In an effort to scale up the project, HUD provided funding to include Marion County. And so as part of the project, what we're trying to do is get lead screening kits out into the community so that people can learn about issues around lead and find out if they have issues of lead in their home environment. And with these kits, we are screening, paint, water, dust, and soil.

Sheridan: And talk about this most recent effort to get those kits into the hands of residents in Marion County, partnering with the library is a great place for this to be happening, because there's often many barriers to this type of testing.

Herrmann: Yes, mostly cost. And that's the thing that's been unique about what we're doing is that this is totally free. If you were to do a full on lead tests around your environment, I mean, that would cost in excess of $500. But we're able to provide a high quality lead screening kit that will tell you where the hazards are and the approximate hazards are in your home environment.

Sheridan: So how will the center use the data?

Herrmann: We use it a couple of ways. One will be a report sent to every resident who participates in this lead screening program, so that they can know what's going on in their home environment and make adjustments as necessary.

And then we also will be using this data as part of the broader research that's happening around dust and soil. Dust is one of the primary ways that especially for children that lead enters into their bodies, and for children who are six years old or younger, it can be especially problematic because their brains are still developing, it can cause serious problems if left undetected.

Sheridan: Yeah, we know it is a major health hazard and no amount of lead is a good amount of lead. You know, when we're thinking about the larger issue of you know, having lead built into our world, how can a smaller project like this really get us get us started?

Herrmann: This screening kit has the potential of being a game changer in terms of what health departments can potentially offer down the road. Part of this project is designed to validate these kits against full lead inspections to compare the results. And if at the end of the day, at the end of the project, the results are comparable. Then health departments potentially have a new tool that they can use to screen large areas or neighborhoods to find out where lead hotspots are. 

Sheridan: Just really important information to know. So thank you so much, Angela.

Herrmann: I really appreciate the opportunity to talk with you

Contact WFYI city government and policy reporter Jill Sheridan at Follow on Twitter: @JillASheridan.

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