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Lead Exposures

The purpose of the Lead Exposures Subcommittee is to facilitate interagency coordination around childhood lead exposures and related effects, including research activities and sharing of information with the public, in order to better understand and prevent disease and disabilities in children from lead.

Due to significant federal regulatory action, the United States has made tremendous progress in reducing lead exposure, resulting in lower childhood blood lead levels over time. From 1988 to 2014, the percentage of children aged 1–5 years at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reference level for lead (blood lead levels less than or equal to 5 micrograms per deciliter) declined from 25.6 percent to 1.9 percent. Blood lead levels fell dramatically for all racial and ethnic groups. However, despite this decline, lead exposure remains a significant health concern for children, causing serious neurological, cognitive, and other effects.

Today, about 3.6 million U.S. families with a child under age 6 live in a home with structures, such as windows, doors, stairs railings, and porches, that contain lead-based paint. Children can be exposed to dangerous levels of lead when this paint chips or flakes off and is breathed in or eaten. There are approximately 500,000 children ages 1 to 5 years with blood lead levels higher than the CDC reference level. Lead exposure is not equal among all children–national data suggest minority children, children living in families below the poverty level, and children living in older housing have significantly higher risk for elevated blood lead levels. No safe blood lead level in children has been identified.

The goals of this subcommittee include:

  • Recommend to the President’s Task Force coordinated federal strategies to prevent childhood lead exposures and associated harmful effects
  • Disseminate information on lead exposure and its effects to diverse audiences, including policy makers, healthcare providers, the general public and other stakeholders
  • Coordinate and disseminate an inventory of federal actions to reduce childhood lead exposures

Current Priority Activity (2016–2018): Federal Lead Strategy

child peeling old paint off window

The Lead Exposures Subcommittee comprises a team of federal scientific, programmatic, and policy experts that is developing a comprehensive Federal Lead Strategy to inform policy makers about evidence gaps and steps needed to further reduce lead exposures of children in the United States. The mission of this activity is to “improve the health of children in the United States–through federal collaboration–by eliminating harm from lead exposure.” This new strategy will update the recommendations of the 2000 Federal Lead Strategy focused on lead paint hazards, and be informed by the 2016 inventory of key federal programs related to children’s exposure to lead. A draft strategy is expected to be available for public comment in late 2018. For more information on this activity, please see the Federal Lead Strategy FAQs(162KB). Please continue to visit this website for updates.

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Accomplishments

Key Federal Programs to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures and Eliminate Associated Health Impacts

This report of the President's Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children catalogs federal efforts to understand, prevent, and reduce various sources of lead exposure among children. The report, Key Federal Programs to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures and Eliminate Associated Health Impacts, provides a starting point for a comprehensive federal lead strategy, and will enable increased coordination and collaboration among federal agencies to further protect the nation's children.

Eliminating Childhood Lead Poisoning: A Federal Strategy Targeting Lead Paint Hazards

In 2000, the Task Force released a set of recommendations aimed at eliminating childhood lead poisoning in the United States. The report focuses primarily on expanding efforts to correct lead paint hazards (especially in low-income housing), a major source of lead exposure for children.

Resources

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