During National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (Oct. 23 – 29), the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness (LMPHW), Lead Safe Louisville, the University of Louisville’s School of Public Health and Information Sciences, Metro United Way and other organizations are raising awareness about the dangers of lead poisoning and preventative measures you can take to reduce the risk for you and your family.
“Blood lead poisoning is one of the largest environmental justice violations that exist throughout the United States,” said Nick Hart, assistant director of the Environmental Health Program at LMPHW. “Lead can have terrible effects on human beings, especially young children. It’s a neurotoxin and having a child who is lead poisoned is the equivalent of experiencing traumatic brain injury.”
“We know children are being directly harmed by remnant environmental lead found in their homes and in their communities. No child should face permanent injury because of their home environment or the neighborhood in which they play,” said Dr. Brian Guinn, assistant professor at the University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Sciences. “If we are a city concerned with environmental justice, then we should work towards eliminating childhood lead poisoning.”
Lead can be harmful to a child’s growth, behavior and ability to learn. According to the CDC, no amount of lead in the body is safe. Children under the age of 6 are at the greatest risk of developing health issues caused by lead exposure. Pregnant individuals can also be affected by lead and pass it on to their unborn baby, causing issues like premature birth, low birth weight, learning and behavior problems and even miscarriage and stillbirth.
Lead can enter the body when someone inhales or ingests particles found in lead-contaminated paint, dust, soil or drinking water. Before 1978, lead-based paint was frequently used in homes. Many homes in Jefferson County, built before 1978, still have old lead paint in and around them.
“Lead Safe Louisville’s mission is to remove lead paint from families’ homes so that children can live in a healthy environment,” said Gertjan Wijburg, housing program supervisor for Louisville Metro’s Office of Housing and Community Development. “The program is targeted at low-income families that live in pre-1978 homes and have children younger than 6 years old living in or frequently visiting the house. Pregnant women and landlords renting out to the target group also qualify. If you have lead paint in your home or suspect that you do, please reach out to the Office of Housing and Community Development at (502) 574-5850 for assistance in making sure your home is lead free.”
In the United States, about 3.3 million households with children under 6 years old have lead exposure hazards, including 2.1 million low-income households. Louisville Metro data shows that nearly 10,000 children in Jefferson County tested positive for elevated blood-lead levels from 2005 to 2021.
“Right now, when we look at our historic neighborhoods in Louisville, especially those in the northwestern corner, we see that paint is degrading and causing massive amounts of lead exposure,” Hart said. “In fact, there are children living in that region that are probably 10 times at greater risk of experiencing lead poisoning in their life.”
“The health and safety of our children remains at the core of our work to change the social determinants of education, economic mobility and health in our community,” said Adria Johnson, President & CEO of Metro United Way. “We cannot stand by as a known and nefarious risk threatens their wellbeing and their futures — especially when proven solutions exist. Powerful programs and transformative policymaking in our community must come together to protect our children from the lifelong impacts of lead poisoning and exposure.”
Routine testing is the best way to know if you or your child has been exposed to lead. Ask your primary healthcare provider for a lead test. If lead is detected, contact Public Health and Wellness at 502-574-6644. The health department will help you find where the exposure is coming from and perform environmental interventions.
The following are additional steps you can take to help prevent lead poisoning.
- Clean frequently with a wet mop or sponge to control dust.
- Wash hands and toys often.
- Look out for chipping paint inside and outside your home or apartment where kids might be exposed.
- Wipe and remove shoes before entering the home.
- Eat healthy meals. Children will absorb less lead when they eat food that is low in fat and high in iron.
- Check to see if Louisville Water has a record of a lead pipe on your property and learn how to request a free water quality test by visiting louisvillewater.com or calling 502-569-0897. Louisville’s drinking water does not contain lead when it leaves the treatment plants. The risk for lead to enter drinking water comes from pipes and plumbing. Louisville Water Company has replaced all its known lead service lines, but there could be lead pipes and plumbing on the customer’s property.
For more information about lead poisoning and preventative measures call 502-574-6644, email [email protected] or visit stopleadlou.com. To see if you qualify for assistance from Lead Safe Louisville, review the eligibility criteria online at louisvilleky.gov or call 502-574-5850.
About Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness
Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness (LMPHW) is a nationally accredited, independent, academic health department committed to achieving health equity and improving the health and well-being of all Louisville residents and visitors.
About the Office of Housing and Community Development
The Office of Housing and Community Development recognizes a healthy city is dependent upon healthy neighborhoods. By reducing the number of vacant and abandoned properties, increasing the supply of affordable housing, and helping low- to moderate income residents access homeownership, we can improve the vibrancy, safety, and value of our existing neighborhoods, making Louisville a better place to for all to live and work.