Billions of dollars from property owners, businesses and tax payer funds have been wasted in
the last two decades chasing a problem that simply does not exist. The scientific community
needs to continually educate homeowners, landlords, tenants, our legislators and the Real- Estate
Industry that the Lead issue is a country wide success story and not a toxic threat (lead poisoning
of children has fallen dramatically in the last 25 years.)
Investigation of the literature on lead reveals the following:
1. Blood lead levels in children have fallen dramatically in the last 20 years with the
lead level in gasoline as shown in the figure below1.
2. The majority of lead in homes is tracked in from outside2 and researchers
comparing blood lead to levels in children before and after removing interior lead
paint have found no reduction in interior lead levels3 although the authors cling to
the belief it is because they did not remove every square inch of paint. It should be
noted that subsequent studies by the same authors where all the interior and
exterior paint is removed and the occupants are requested to do extensive interior
cleaning did significantly reduce interior lead levels. However, a thorough interior
cleaning alone would almost certainly have produced the same result; a study
control the authors were not about to undertake with funding dollars at risk if they
came up with the wrong answer. The notion that lead dust evolves from lead based
paint buried below several layers of paint without lead is absurd. Even around sliding wood
windows, the lead based paint that used to exist at wear locations has long since worn off and
been replaced by paint without lead (based on tests conducted by the author).
3. The acceptable blood lead level set by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has been
lowered 3 times in the last 20 years. At three times the current level of 10 μg/dl (10 millionth
of a gram per one tenth of a liter), there is no evidence of detrimental effects on children
despite the large number of studies specifically looking for problems caused by lead.
The current level is based primarily on a study published in 1979 by Professor Herbert
Needleman at the University of Pittsburgh. The CDC and EPA still site Dr,
Needleman’s work even after other researchers reported Professor Needleman to the
Federal Office of Scientific Integrity for a host of problems with his research and a
University of Pittsburgh Inquiry Panel reported: there were “deliberate
misrepresentation of the procedures actually used in the study”, “Dr. Needleman
was deliberately misleading in the published accounts of the procedures used in the
study”, and his findings, “certainly should not have been a basis for federal policy4.”
Apparently the CDC is not about to let the truth get in the way of a good self justifying
health scare that has the potential to rival the asbestos panic.
4. Most of the significant sources of lead in the environment have already been removed.
Removing lead from gasoline and the solder used to seal tin cans were the major
contributors to the 70% drop in blood lead levels in people of all ages over the past twenty
five years according to the CDC5,6. Today’s children are exposed to 10 times less lead
from the environment than those of us over 50 years old.
In summary, we should be declaring victory in the war on lead, not hysterically reducing
our housing stock with money that could be used in other ways to actually help
children. Scientists, engineers, property owners, businesses and the real-estate industry
in general must band together and let politicians know that any new legislation must (1)
acknowledge that lead poisoning is on the decline, (2) target resistant pockets of
poisoning: inner city, low-to-moderate income properties occupied by young children,
(3) allow voluntary compliance and testing using chemtest kits readily available today in
any hardware store and (4) ban lead lawsuits against property owners based on “Junk-
1. “Decline in Blood Lead Levels in the US”, Journal of the American Medical
Association, JAMA, 7/27/94.
2. “Identification of Lead Sources”, Archives of Environmental Health, 7/93.
3. “Blood Lead Levels in the US Population”, Journal of the American Medical
Association, JAMA, 7/27/94. “Lead Contaminated Soil Abatement”, Journal of the
American Medical Association, JAMA, 4/7/93.
4. Haunted Housing: How Toxic Scare Stories are Spooking the Public Out of House
and Home, by CassandraMoore, Cato Institute, 1997.
5. “Protect your family from Lead in the Home”, EPA 747-K-94-001 1995.
6. “Review of Studies, Lead Abatement Effectiveness”, EPA 747-R-9-006 1995.
7. “Lead Based Paint” is defined as any paint or other coating that contains lead in
excess of 1.0 milligrams per square centimeter, 0.5 percent by weight or 5,000
parts per million.