More than 15 percent of St. Joseph children who have been tested have lead poisoning, and this is almost three times more than the levels Flint, Michigan, sees.

“Lead is an element so it does not go away,” said Sadie Kennedy, St. Joseph Health Department lead educator. “Just because it changes form doesn’t mean it’s not there. Whether it goes from paint that chips off of houses then falls on the floor. Children tend to crawl on the floor, put their hands in their mouths, so they get the lead from there.”

Lead dust is the most common way the St. Joseph Health Department sees lead poisoning in children.

The Environmental Protection Agency requires renovators to be certified to work in lead-contaminated houses. Jamie Green is the EPA Region 7 branch chief for the pesticides and lead-based paint programs. The EPA Region 7 is paying for three free classes in St. Joseph for contractors to get this certification.

“The more careful we are when we do work to ensure that we aren’t generating the lead dust, we are much less to see lead poisoned kids,” Green said. “The good news is we can do better.”

The first class will be Thursday, Jan. 31, at Stoney Creek Conference Center. Check-in is at 8:30 a.m. and will go until 5:30 p.m. Classes are limited to 25 seats and are first come, first served. You can register at www.zackacademy.com/free-rrp.

The second class will be on Friday, Feb. 22. The third class has not been scheduled yet but will be taught in Spanish.

“We are working really hard to make sure that we get the folks that are in St. Joseph that do this work informed about the requirements, but we want to expand that group of folks,” Green said. “We wanna make sure that everyone doing that work knows how to do it in a way that reduces lead dust and is protective of kids.”

The training teaches contractors how to keep themselves safe and ensure proper cleanup and disposal of lead.

There are currently nine St. Joseph businesses with certified contractors, according to the EPA website:

  • Retro Tech Inc dba Dillon Co.
  • St Joseph, MO Habitat For Humanity
  • Affordable Seamless Guttering
  • Halsey Inc. DBA Servpro of St. Joseph
  • Precision Flooring LLC
  • Superior Exteriors of Northwest Missouri LLC
  • DRS Restoration Services LLC
  • Waggoner Construction and Installations
  • Do Right Remodeling Inc.

If renovators are caught working in homes with lead without a certification, they could face fines.

“St. Joseph is a historic city, and we are in the hub of where it began. People love these old homes and these old communities we have,” Smith said. “But, there’s still lead in them.”

Lead poisoning affects every organ in the body, Kennedy said.

“It can cause abdominal issues. It can cause delay in development. It can cause behavioral problems,” said Stevie Smith, St. Joseph Health Department lead case manager.

Kennedy said children can be exposed to lead outside of homes.

“Just because you don’t live in a home that was built before 1978 doesn’t mean your child isn’t being exposed to lead,” Kennedy said.

The St. Joseph Health Department offers free lead screenings to children ages 6 months to 6 years old.