The Illinois General Assembly is considering expanding a program that replaces windows in older, low-income homes, which often have significant levels of hazardous lead paint.

State Sen. Don Harmon, a Democrat from Oak Park, filed amendments to the Comprehensive Lead Education, Reduction, and Window Replacement Program Act (CLEAR-Win) earlier this year to expand a pilot program that originally ran from 2010 to 2014.

CLEAR-Win provided for the installation of 8,000 windows in 466 low-income housing units in Peoria and on Chicago’s South Side. In a December 2014 report on the program, the Illinois Department of  Public Health declared it a success and urged its expansion.

“Over the long term, the Clear-Win pilot program should realize net benefits of over $3.3 million,” the report reads. “Total benefits include energy saving benefits of $1.5 million, additional market value benefits of $1.57 million, lead poisoning prevention health benefits of nearly $3.6 million, and tax benefits of $51,000. These benefits are well in excess of installed window costs of $3.1 million and local administrative costs of $0.4 million. An expansion of Clear-Win into other older, low-income neighborhoods in Illinois is warranted, and would result in continued substantial benefits.”

Harmon’s amendments, which are at the committee stage right now, would launch the second phase of the CLEAR-Win program in communities considered to be at high risk for childhood lead poisoning. It would also start job-training programs in areas where there is a shortage of workers trained to remove lead-based paint hazards, as well as establish incentives for contractors to do lead abatement work. Additionally, the CLEAR-Win program would prioritize the purchase of replacement windows made in Illinois.

According to the bill, Illinois ranks seventh nationally in the number of housing units built before 1978, when lead paint was banned for use in residential properties. There are nearly 1.43 million households with significant lead-based paint hazards in Illinois.

Most children are exposed to lead dust from deteriorated lead paint surfaces, such as on windows, and when lead paint deteriorates or is disturbed through home renovation and repainting. Windows are considered a higher lead exposure risk than other components in a housing unit because of weathering conditions and the friction effect on paint.

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