Long-Term Impacts of Lead

Children Raising Hands

The use of lead-based paint was phased out by the EPA as of 1978. Yet, 34 years later, lead remains on surfaces in many aging homes.

Last month, James wrote about the soon-to-be-implemented Philadelphia ordinance requiring rental units to be certified as “lead free” or “lead safe” (read his post here for more details).

Now, here’s another reason to care about lead exposure in homes. Children exposed to lead tend to do worse in school than kids who are not exposed. A Massachusetts case study shows that the concentration of lead in a child’s bloodstream is linked to their academic performance later in life. The research found that the state’s investment in lead abatement led to improved standardized test scores among elementary school students a decade later.

Add this to the research from 2007 linking childhood lead exposure to crime rates. As a poison that targets the nervous system, lead is shown to negatively impact control impulses in children. People that are exposed as youth are more likely to have juvenile and adult criminal records. Earlier studies focused on the impact of car exhaust during the era of leaded gasoline. Now that we’ve cleaned up the air a bit, the focus has shifted to lead paint, which persists especially in low-income communities.

So, starting in December, does this mean that Philadelphia is on its way to a smarter and less violent city? Let’s hope so. It may not be much of a consolation to landlords facing tighter regulations now. But, hey, maybe it’ll pay off next decade when there are fewer broken windows to repair, and property values are soaring in those safe neighborhoods with high-performing city schools. Feel free to share your thoughts on the topic in the comments below, or contact REPSG with any questions about lead exposure and abatement.