How are Children Exposed to Lead in the Home?
Lead paint and dust in older homes can poison children. When old paint on the inside or outside of a home peels and cracks, or when windows and doors are opened and closed, it makes lead dust. All homes built before 1978 are likely to contain some lead-based paint. According to the American Community Survey (2012-2016), 71% of Massachusetts’ housing stock is built before 1978.
Most children in the United States (97.5%) have blood lead levels less than 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood (µg/dL). According to the Center for Disease Control, if a child’s blood lead level is 5 µg/dL or greater, the source of the lead exposure (usually the home) should be investigated. Lead poisoning causes permanent damage to a child’s brain, kidneys, and nervous system. It can also cause serious learning and behavior problems. Children under the age of 6 years old are at risk because their bodies and brains are developing so rapidly. Young children are also more at risk because they crawl on floors where there is lead dust and tend to put their hands or toys, which also can be contaminated with lead dust, into their mouths. Read more about childhood lead poisoning here.
What does the Massachusetts Lead Law Require?
- Did You Know?
- In 2017, over 7,000 homes were inspected for lead paint and more than 60% were found to have a lead paint problem that could place children at risk for lead poisoning. Source: Massachusetts Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, 2017 data
The Massachusetts Lead Law requires the removal or covering of lead paint hazards in homes built before 1978 where any children under six live, regardless of their blood lead level. Lead paint hazards include chipping and loose lead paint, lead paint on windows and other friction surfaces, and surfaces easily mouthed by children, such as window sills, handrails, and railing caps. Owners must comply with the Lead Law and make sure there are no lead hazards in a child’s home. This includes owners of rental property as well as owners living in their own home. Because deleading work can be dangerous, there are rules about who can do the work. There is training available to owners to teach them how to do some of this work safely. There is also financial help available through tax credits, grants and loans. For more information, click here to visit the Mass Housing website.
Massachusetts does not have a lead-free standard; lead hazards are required to be covered, encapsulated, or deleaded to meet a lead-safe standard. Even homes that already have a compliance letter (Full Initial Compliance or Full Deleading Compliance) have to be maintained in the same condition as they were when the compliance letter was issued. If leaded paint starts to chip and peel or if a covering or encapsulant gets damaged, there may be lead hazards in the home again. Owners can have a post compliance assessment determination, or a PCAD, to find out if their home is still free from lead hazards and their compliance letter is still valid.
What Prevention Services are Offered?
The Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (CLPPP) offers a full complement of case management services to children with blood lead levels 10 µg/dL or greater, including environmental investigations and enforcement of the Lead Law, clinical case management conducted in conjunction with a child’s pediatrician, and community health worker services. CLPPP also works closely with local Boards of Health who provide primary prevention code enforcement determinations, which enforce the Lead Law in pre-1978 homes with a child under six in residence regardless of a child’s blood lead level.
In addition to code enforcement lead inspections, MA has a large private sector of licensed lead inspectors who also provide lead inspection services. These inspections are done for a variety of reasons including but not limited to; property transfer, qualification of units for housing subsidy programs, and assurance that the rental property is in compliance with the Lead Law.
All of this environmental activity is entered into the CLPPP database and is linked to a child’s blood lead level data. For a detailed description of all environmental activities, please read the glossary. This data is provided on this website, where you can search for the inspection history of a specific home, or the overall environmental activity occurring in specific communities. Additional information about the CLPPP can be found here.
- Understanding the Data
When reviewing and interpreting the data, it is important to take into consideration the following:
- Lead inspection data is dependent upon the reporting of data by the lead inspectors. It is possible for a property to have a lead history that is not in the database. CLPPP updates the database quarterly with both new and historical inspectional activities.
- Prior to 2003, lead inspection data was not stored in a linked database and, therefore, seemingly contradictory inspection histories can occur for homes inspected during that time. CLPPP is constantly cleaning and correcting data. If you come across such an example, you can contact CLPPP to have the information cleaned and updated.
- Lead inspection data prior to 2003 is more likely to contain hyphenated street numbers, misspellings, and abbreviations, sometimes making searches more difficult. Using wildcards (%) for searches can help (e.g. “Cent% Street” will return results for “Centre Street” and “Center Street”). If an address is not located with an exact search, sometimes a less specific search is more likely to be successful.
- Available Data on Lead Inspections
Use the Explore Maps & Tables link on this page to access the following data for Massachusetts lead inspections. The most current available data will be shown. Be sure to check the site periodically as new data are added each year.
- Inspection history of a specific property or the inspection history of all properties within a specified geography (community, street, etc).