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Tighter Regulations To Reduce Risk of Lead Exposure in Public Housing

A study conducted on this reveals that tougher inspection standards have reduced blood lead levels in tenants.

March 26, 2024

A new study was conducted on this and revealed that lead inspection and removal regulations used for public housing have been effective over time and have significantly reduced the risk of lead exposure for residents. After decades of high lead levels in housing, the Department of Housing and Urban Development hopes that remediation and safety efforts will work.

The researchers took measurements from HUD and the survey conducted by the National Health and Nutrition Examination to have an insight into the 20 years of data on resident’s blood levels. The researchers then also compared people in federal housing with the ones on the waiting list while staying in low-income housing in the private market. Upon conducting research, the researchers found out that the blood lead levels in HUD residents were around 11.4 percent lower than the ones waiting for housing assistance. The biggest was among the ones aged 61 years or more whose levels were 14.2 percent lower. The blood lead levels among children aged between 6 to 11 and 12 to 19 but this difference was not considered quite significant.

Across the country, 75 percent of households supported by HUD are headed by women; the program also serves as a crucial housing resource for individuals with disabilities and seniors.

Compared to 83% of private housing, nearly 86% of public housing complexes had lead-based paint in their buildings according to the survey conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The first housing type that was required to be fully inspected for lead is public housing. According to the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act, public housing officials were asked to remove lead-based paint from the housing units.

The results revealed that these small changes made a huge difference. Lead is dangerous for small children who are often exposed to lead by dust and and chippings accumulating in houses via lead-based paint.

An adjunct professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Mary Jean Brown, who studied lead in housing said, “It goes from the soil or the dust in the house to a child’s hands or a dropped cookie, or an outside toy, or blanket dragged around outside and brought into the house and a baby chews on it when he takes a nap”.

Lead exposure has been linked to delays in development and learning. There’s one research that says if you are 7 years old and have a high lead level, then it is pretty predictive in school.

This study only analyzed residents aged 6 or above. However, the previous research done on lead-based paint also studied children younger than 6 and came up with similar results depicting that children in public housing had lower lead levels than low-income children without housing assistance.

No doubt that the problem of lead in low-income housing is improving but it is still a public health challenge as 34.6 Million homes in the United States are revealed to have lead-based paint. The latest survey revealed that 19.9 % of private housing units have lead-based paint hazards along with 11.1 % of government-supported housing units.

Some public housing authorities across the U.S. have also come under scrutiny for the failure to properly look into the lead in the housing units. Thousands of public housing residents were found to be exposed to high levels of lead in places like New York City, Chicago, and Indiana.
Overall, subsidized housing was found to be less risky for lead exposure compared to low-income housing on the private market.

Besides this, a report was released that revealed that HUD failed in several ways to mitigate the risks of lead and had no plan in place to hold public housing authorities accountable for not addressing the lead problems. Now the agency has updated its inspection rules for lead-based paint in housing choice voucher units and wrote that all need to abide by those standards.

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Kutz Jessica. “Tighter regulations are reducing the risk of lead exposure in public housing”. 19th News, March 26, 2024,
Tighter regulations are reducing the risk of lead exposure in public housing (19thnews.org)

Last Updated: September 20, 2021