Regular House Cleaning Can Reduce Blood-Lead Levels in Young Children

The Robert Wood Johnson Medical School conducted a randomized, controlled trial to test whether an education and house-cleaning intervention can reduce blood-lead levels in young children who are at risk for lead poisoning.

The study took place from 1991 to 1997 in Jersey City, N.J., where 113 urban children between the ages of 6 and 36 months participated.

Fifty six children received a lead-dust intervention composed of education for their mothers and biweekly assistance with household cleaning, and 57 children were placed in the control group, which received training in accident prevention.

Key Results

  • Of these 113 children, 99 were successfully followed for 12 months (plus or minus 3 months): 46 in the lead-intervention group and 53 in the control group.

  • During the study period, blood-lead levels fell 17 percent in the intervention group and did not change in the control group.

  • Household dust and lead-dust measures also fell significantly in the intervention group. Children in homes that were cleaned 20 or more times over the year had an average blood-lead reduction of 34 percent.

    • The study's results indicated that regular home cleaning, accompanied by maternal education, is a safe and effective intervention that may be useful for the large majority of lead-exposed children for whom removal to lead safe housing is not an option.

    Fourteen articles have been completed and have appeared in publications such as Pediatrics, the Journal of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology, and Applied Occupational & Environmental Hygiene.

    Two products were also developed through the grant: a dust-wipe sampler to detect lead dust, and an educational card game for parents, on lead reduction strategies.