For decades, a sound national strategy to reduce children's lead exposure made significant progress. Despite this progress, today a half of million children have elevated blood lead levels (according to CDC's current standards) with poor and minority children at greatest risk.1
In December 2018, the Trump Administration released the much-anticipated federal lead action plan that – unfortunately – was a missed opportunity to advance efforts on lead. The strategy essentially repackaged activities that largely were already underway – and did not offer measurable goals, deadlines, or funding essential for success.
Given that there is no safe level of lead exposure, a renewed national commitment is needed to better protect children from this toxic legacy.
History of U.S. lead policy
Since the 1970s, the federal government has established an array of policies designed to reduce childhood exposure to lead. See more details on 40 years of federal actions to reduce exposure »
Initially, the government's focus was on removing lead from consumer products like gasoline, paint and metal food cans - and controlling industrial emissions of lead. Blood lead levels dropped dramatically because of these policies.
But by the late 1980s – as evidence of lead's harm to children became even more compelling – it became clear that more was needed.
Federal policies were expanded to address the legacy lead in our homes and drinking water. Goals were set to monitor children – and the contaminated water, dust, and soil that expose them to lead. The federal government established standards defining how to keep the lead in the paint and pipes and away from children. For hard-to-manage items like lead-painted windows, removal was the preferred option.
With this comprehensive strategy in place since the early 1990s we have seen reductions in children's blood lead levels, but there is still much to do.