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Housing With Lead Risk
Housing With Lead Risk in United States
United States

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United States Value:


Percentage of housing stock with potential elevated lead risk due to age of housing

Housing With Lead Risk in depth:

Housing With Lead Risk by State

Percentage of housing stock with potential elevated lead risk due to age of housing

Housing With Lead Risk Trends

Percentage of housing stock with potential elevated lead risk due to age of housing

Trend: Housing With Lead Risk in United States, 2022 Annual Report

Percentage of housing stock with potential elevated lead risk due to age of housing

United States

 U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey

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Housing With Lead Risk

Trend: Housing With Lead Risk in United States, 2022 Annual Report

Percentage of housing stock with potential elevated lead risk due to age of housing

United States

 U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey

About Housing With Lead Risk

US Value: 16.9%

Top State(s): Nevada: 4.8%

Bottom State(s): New York: 32.5%

Definition: Percentage of housing stock with potential elevated lead risk due to age of housing

Data Source and Years: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2021

Suggested Citation: America's Health Rankings analysis of U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, United Health Foundation,, accessed 2023.

Lead, a naturally occurring heavy metal, is highly toxic in large amounts, especially to young children and pregnant women. Once lead enters the bloodstream, it can mimic calcium and zinc and disrupt every organ system in the body. Lead exposure can occur through inhalation, ingestion or skin contact and is found in many places, including in older homes, some water pipes and soil. 

There is no known safe level of lead exposure; in 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lowered the blood lead reference value — the threshold for identifying unsafe levels of lead in the blood — to 3.5 μg/dL. Blood lead levels of concern (above 10 μg/dL) are detrimental to neurological and physical development and can cause lasting negative health outcomes in children, including reduced intelligence, impaired hearing and reduced stature. Even lower levels, below 10 μg/dL in children, have shown adverse health effects on intellectual function, attention-related behaviors and academic and cognitive skills. High blood lead levels during pregnancy can be passed onto the developing fetus, which may cause miscarriages, low birthweight infants, preterm births and other congenital disabilities. 

Housing built before 1978 carries an elevated risk for lead exposure, and housing built before 1950 has the highest risk of lead exposure. Due to a ban on lead-based paint in 1978, housing built after this year carries minimal risk. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimated that 89% of homes built before 1978 had lead-based paint, accounting for the majority of the 34.6 million American homes that have lead paint in them as of 2018-2019. A study of young children ages 6 months to 2 years found that interior renovation of older homes — which often includes painting, sanding, scraping or other activities that might release lead dust into the air — further increased risk of lead poisoning. Over 3 million homes with children younger than age 6 had one or more lead-based paint hazards in 2021, 2.1 million of which were low income households. Investing in lead paint hazard control for communities at high risk could provide a return of $17-$221 in societal and health costs for each $1 spent.

Populations most vulnerable to environmental lead exposure include:

  • Young children under the age of 6, who tend to put their hands on objects that may be contaminated with lead dust.
  • Low-income households compared with higher-income households. Among low income households, those without government housing assistance have a higher prevalence of lead-based paint hazards than those receiving housing assistance.
  • Those who live in the Northeast and Midwest regions, where the housing tends to be older and has significantly higher levels of lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards.

Strategies to reduce the negative consequences of lead exposure include:

  • Reducing lead hazards (or permanently eliminating them through lead abatement) in homes with children before occupancy. Because the adverse health effects of lead exposure are permanent, primary prevention is the only effective way to prevent lead toxicity in children.
  • Providing lead exposure education for parents of young children during routine check-ups. This education covers the basics regarding lead exposure risk, including keeping children away from peeling paint and frequently washing hands, toys, and other items children place in or near their mouths. 
  • Screenings via blood lead test for children 12 and 24 months of age based on their risk level. While federal law mandates screening for all children covered by Medicaid, universal screening is no longer recommended by the CDC. States are instead encouraged to develop their own screening guidelines based on state-specific data.

Other strategies such as removing lead from drinking water pipelines, eliminating lead from airplane fuel and increasing compliance with the EPA’s lead-safe initiative could reduce lead exposure and save on future health care costs. Moreover, the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs maintains a Lead Poisoning Prevention Toolkit for agencies working to prevent lead exposure.

Healthy People 2030 has two objectives related to reducing lead exposure, including reducing blood lead levels in children ages 1-5 and reducing exposure to lead in the population over age 1.

Bellinger, David C. “Very Low Lead Exposures and Children’s Neurodevelopment.” Current Opinion in Pediatrics 20, no. 2 (April 2008): 172–77.

Committee on Measuring Lead in Critical Populations. Measuring Lead Exposure in Infants, Children, and Other Sensitive Populations. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press, 1993.

Gould, Elise. “Childhood Lead Poisoning: Conservative Estimates of the Social and Economic Benefits of Lead Hazard Control.” Environmental Health Perspectives 117, no. 7 (July 2009): 1162–67.

Jordan, Catherine M., Becky L. Yust, Leslie L. Robison, Peter Hannan, and Amos S. Deinard. “A Randomized Trial of Education to Prevent Lead Burden in Children at High Risk for Lead Exposure: Efficacy as Measured by Blood Lead Monitoring.” Environmental Health Perspectives 111, no. 16 (December 2003): 1947–51.

Lanphear, Bruce P., Kim Dietrich, Peggy Auinger, and Christopher Cox. “Cognitive Deficits Associated with Blood Lead Concentrations <10 Pg/DL in US Children and Adolescents.” Public Health Reports 115, no. 6 (2000): 521–29.

Lanphear, Bruce P., Richard Hornung, Jane Khoury, Kimberly Yolton, Peter Baghurst, David C. Bellinger, Richard L. Canfield, et al. “Low-Level Environmental Lead Exposure and Children’s Intellectual Function: An International Pooled Analysis.” Environmental Health Perspectives 113, no. 7 (July 2005): 894–99.

“Low Level Lead Exposure Harms Children: A Renewed Call for Primary Prevention,” January 4, 2012.\.

Ruckart, Perri Zeitz, Robert L. Jones, Joseph G. Courtney, Tanya Telfair LeBlanc, Wilma Jackson, Mateusz P. Karwowski, Po-Yung Cheng, Paul Allwood, Erik R. Svendsen, and Patrick N. Breysse. “Update of the Blood Lead Reference Value — United States, 2021.” MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 70, no. 43 (October 29, 2021): 1509–12.

Spanier, Adam J., Stephen Wilson, Mona Ho, Richard Hornung, and Bruce P. Lanphear. “The Contribution of Housing Renovation to Children’s Blood Lead Levels: A Cohort Study.” Environmental Health 12 (August 27, 2013): 72.

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