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Science shows that there is no safe level for lead in the body. An estimated 535,000 U.S. children, 2.6% of those aged 1–5 years, have blood lead levels greater than the reference level of 5 μg/dL. 24 million homes in the United States have lead-based paint hazards that can result in childhood lead poisoning—young children live in approximately 4 million such homes.
Lead is particularly harmful to the developing brain and nervous system of fetuses and young children. Lead poisoning lowers IQ, limiting children’s ability to reach their full potential. Lead poisoning increases learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder and behavioral disorders. Lead poisoned children are six times more likely to drop out of high school, and are more likely to enter into the juvenile justice system. Medical and special education expenses can equal $5,600 for each child with serious lead poisoning. Lead poisoning results in an average loss of lifetime earnings of $723,000 per child.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides funding to state and local health departments to determine the extent of childhood lead poisoning and helping to ensure that lead-poisoned children receive medical and environmental assistance. The Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Surveillance System (HHLPSS) helps state and local health departments target case management, home remediation, education and prevention activities.
CDC is the only agency that has the tracking and surveillance infrastructure to find where lead poisoning is occurring. Other federal agencies rely on CDC data. For example, HUD uses CDC lead surveillance data to identify housing properties where children have been poisoned for remediation. HHLPSS tracks additional environmental conditions such as mold, pest infestation, radon and carbon monoxide that lead to conditions such as asthma, COPD, carbon monoxide poisoning and cancer. Full restoration of funding will increase primary prevention strategies and allow for follow-up services to children already exposed to lead, such as risk assessments and home inspections. The program utilizes metrics such as the deployment of HHLPSS and the reduction of racial and income disparities for lead poisoning to track performance.