Although it is entirely preventable, childhood lead poisoning remains a stubbornly intractable health problem in southeastern Pennsylvania – particularly in Philadelphia. We are pleased to report that thousands fewer children in Philadelphia have been harmed by lead over the last decade – in part because of Children First’s and our partners’ steadfast efforts to raise public awareness, change housing and health policies and facilitate the passage of a new Philadelphia law.
With election season underway in Pennsylvania, we’ve developed this fact sheet for candidates for public office to use to understand the expectations parents have of them to make sure they, and their babies, are safe from lead in their own homes.
Delaware County Lead Poisoning Prevention Toolkit
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Lead can seriously harm a child’s health and cause well-documented adverse effects such as damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth, development and learning and behavior, hearing and speech problems – which can cause lower IQ, decreased ability to pay attention and under-performance in school often requiring special education services. Research also demonstrates that childhood lead exposure is a risk factor for criminal behavior, including violent crime, in adulthood.
When candidates for elected office, get into office, they should know that families in their district are counting on them to protect their babies from toxic lead and we need them to:
- Fund removal of lead paint from children’s homes.
- Guarantee every PA child is appropriately tested for lead as per Centers for Disease Control requirements.
Check out our fact sheet here.
Delaware County Lead Poisoning Prevention Toolkit
- Delaware County – Lead Poisoned Child Information Flyer: ENGLISH / SPANISH
- Delaware County – Lead Poisoned Child Toolkit: ENGLISH / SPANISH
- Delaware County – Lead Testing Information Flyer: ENGLISH / SPANISH
- Delaware County – Lead Resource Directory: ENGLISH / SPANISH
A list of HUD Lead Hazard Remediation Programs in Pennsylvania. A child does not need to be poisoned for their family to qualify for remediation under these grants. The programs cover both Environmental Lead Investigations (ELIs) and lead removal services.
Too many landlords are not complying with the current law to keep children lead-safe in rental property units. Only a quarter of all rental units in the City covered by the current law are in compliance. That’s because the law is largely unenforceable since there is no record of tenants’ ages at the time of new occupancy to identify which pre-1978 rental properties need to be in compliance with the law. See the stats and read the stories from people in each Philadelphia City Council district on how lead effects our children and then take action to help protect our children.
- Lead Fact Sheet for Philadelphia
- First Council District Lead Fact Sheet
- Second Council District Lead Fact Sheet
- Third Council District Lead Fact Sheet
- Fourth Council District Lead Fact Sheet
- Fifth Council District Lead Fact Sheet
- Sixth Council District Lead Fact Sheet
- Seventh Council District Lead Fact Sheet
- Eighth Council District Lead Fact Sheet
- Ninth Council District Lead Fact Sheet
- Tenth Council District Lead Fact Sheet
Across suburban southeast PA, at least 50% of homes were built before 1978 when lead-based paint was banned for residential use (a range of 52% in Chester County to 83% in Delaware County). Across the nation the number one source of lead poisoning is lead-based paint in children’s homes. Consequently, lead paint-based hazards in thousands of homes may be poisoning children. Unfortunately, too few children are tested for lead poisoning – a range of 9% to 19% of young children in 2012. If children aren’t tested, their blood lead levels remain unknown.
County leaders should identify and utilize local and federal funds to test children’s homes for lead hazards and remediate them, educate parents about lead poisoning and screen more children for lead.
Click here for a summary of the Bottom Line Health Reports – Learn more about the state of children’s health across Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties.
Click on the links below for the full reports in all four counties.
- Bucks – Only 10% of Bucks County children under six received screenings for lead poisoning in 2012.
- Chester – More than half of Chester County houses may contain lead, but only nine percent of children received screenings for lead poisoning in 2012.
- Delaware – Delaware County had the highest share of children screened for lead in 2012 (19%) than in any suburban county.
- Montgomery – More than two-thirds of Montgomery County houses may contain lead, however, only 14% of children received screenings for lead poisoning in 2012.
Children First initiated a successful two-year campaign that resulted in Philadelphia City Council passing a law in December 2011 requiring landlords to test their properties for lead hazards to prove they are lead-safe and help protect young tenants from lead poisoning.
At the time the law was passed, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health reported that 55% of properties that poison Philadelphia children were rental properties. The city’s Property Maintenance Code requires landlords to maintain their properties free of lead-based paint hazards, and many did but too many did not. Philadelphia is an old city with 95% of its housing stock built before 1978 when lead-based paint was banned for residential use. Consequently, many homes in the city have the potential to poison children.
The Philadelphia Department of Public Health maintains a webpage with detailed information regarding the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords in terms of this law – which includes an informational document for tenants and a guide for landlords. Click here to view these documents and several others.
Click here to view a copy of the Philadelphia’s lead law.
PCCY has chronicled the status of childhood lead poisoning in Philadelphia and the city’s progress towards prevention in a series of comprehensive reports.
- To ensure appropriate resources are directed to reduce the incidence of childhood lead exposure and poisoning, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania annually publishes a Childhood Lead Surveillance report. The reports for 2016 and 2017 were released in December 2018. These reports provide useful raw data that show that nearly 10,000 children are still testing positive for lead poisoning annually. However, the reports don’t tell us enough to fully inform decisions that can result in significantly more resources being deployed effectively to save children from the lifelong consequences of lead poisoning. This report from PCCY, does that.
All Philadelphia babies should have an equal opportunity to grow and develop into healthy children and productive adults no matter where they live in the City. Tragically, this isn’t true when it comes to childhood lead poisoning. Most children are poisoned by lead-based paint in their older homes – and most (62%) are poisoned in a rental property. For hundreds of years, lead has been known to be a neurotoxin and an environmental hazard, yet lead was not banned for residential use in the United States until 1978. In Philadelphia, nearly 90% of the housing stock was built before 1978. Although the City of Philadelphia has made progress in reducing childhood lead poisoning rates and has recently taken steps toward increasing primary and secondary prevention measures, there are still too many children poisoned each year. To ensure that more children are protected from serious injury by lead poisoning, we must modify the Lead Paint Disclosure Law to include all pre-1978 rental units.
- In a short period of time, the Philadelphia Lead Court made a dramatic impact on increasing the number of properties made lead-safe in the city and, consequently, on decreasing the number of children poisoned. This report describes some of the court’s outcomes and challenges accompanying the court’s progress – in particular the continuing lack of adequate funding to ensure that all properties are remediated.
- Philadelphia government re-focused and re-organized its efforts on primary lead poisoning prevention programs and activities – to keep children from ever getting lead poisoning in the first place. This report highlights the expansion and outcomes of the successful Lead Safe Babies program that targets pregnant women and families with newborns to test their properties for lead hazards and remove them before the baby is exposed.
- This report chronicles the progress the city made since PCCY published our first report in 2002 including the “campaign for change” undertaken by PCCY and other advocates to push for the creation of the Lead Abatement Strike Team and Lead Court that aided in bringing increased federal funding into Philadelphia and significant expansion of primary prevention programs such as Lead Safe Babies.
- A Report on Childhood Lead Poisoning in Philadelphia