Are Local Laws the Key to Ending Childhood Lead Poisoning?

Reducing and eventually eliminating childhood lead exposure through local policy innovations, is the main objective of this study.

While removal of lead from gasoline and paint has significantly reduced lead exposure, many low-income children living in rental housing built prior to the 1978 lead paint ban have high exposure to lead and suffer from lead poisoning.

This study examined eight local lead laws passed since 2000 that work to reduce lead hazards in rental housing. By examining the local laws’ strengths and weakness, this research may inform future policies reducing childhood lead poisoning. The case studies included: Burlington, Vermont; Chicago, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Rochester, New York; San Diego, California; and Washington, D.C.

Key Findings:

  • Local laws may more opportunities to address lead hazards in privately owned pre-1978 housing through use of “home rule” authority and increased responsiveness to direct needs of specific communities.
  • The researchers identified contextual variables, structural features, and types of implementation resources to compare and contrast the laws.
  • An assessment of the local environment should include the physical environment, health status and systems, public awareness of lead poisoning and health, economy/housing market, state legal environment, case law, implementation resources, and political climate.

Local laws targeting childhood lead poisoning will vary across specific contexts, but this study highlights important characteristics for municipalities to consider when crafting their own approaches to eliminating lead poisoning.