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Over 40 Years After Lead-Based Paint Ban, Health Risks Remain -- But Are Preventable

The U.S. banned lead-based paint for consumer-use in the 1970s -- but many older homes still contain the paint.

It’s been over 40 years since the U.S. banned lead-based paint for consumer-use. But the risk of lead poisoning isn’t some relic of the past. It's National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, and certain groups of people are still highly vulnerable to lead’s harmful effects.

Around 3.6 million families have young children who live in homes contaminated with lead-based paint. 

That’s according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which has awarded $319 million to communities nationwide to establish lead hazard reduction programs. The City of Wilmington, which is receiving $1.8 million, will be implementing its own program.  The money will provide lead mitigation for eligible homes.

City Community Development and Housing Planner, Suzanne Rogers, says the program should be up and running sometime in 2020. She also says that, while lead poisoning can impact anybody -- children in lower-income families are especially at risk. This is because children’s brains and bodies are still developing, and because homes that tend to be more affordable, are older.  

“Older homes are at high probability of having some lead-based paint in them. And as it deteriorates, it starts to chip and flake… and becomes dust particles in the air and gets on things that may end up getting into the food supply.”

According to the World Health Organization, lead exposure can cause neurological, behavioral, and physical issues -- and can even lead to death. But, there are prevention measures:

“People need to understand that lead paint is a hazard, and that you can have your blood tested to see if you have high lead levels at the New Hanover County Health Department. We look forward to implementing the program in the community, and think that it's going to help a lot of homeowners and renters have safer homes.”

If you have doubts about the lead levels in your home, affordable kits that test lead levels are available online, and at home improvement stores.


Hannah is WHQR's All Things Considered host, and also reports on science, the environment, and climate change. She enjoys loud music, documentaries, and stargazing; and is the proud mother of three cats, a dog, and many, many houseplants. Contact her via email at hbreisinger@whqr.org, or on Twitter @hbreisinger.