Region 1: New England
One of the most significant environmental health concerns for inner city youth is exposure to lead during early developmental years. In fact, elevated lead levels in inner city children may be as high as 1 in every 4-6 children based on current blood lead data. There has long been recognized a strong link between the incidence of learning disabilities and elevated blood lead levels in preschool children. Recent research has suggested a connection between lead poisoning and high school drop out rates leading to higher rates of crime in teen and adult years.
While the hazards of lead poisoning to young children has been known for some time, there has been a lack of primary prevention to effectively combat the problem in the inner city and the incidence of elevated blood lead levels continues to be unacceptably high.
In addition, the "level of concern" for blood lead levels has continued to drop. Most recently the CDC has recommended 10ug/dL as the level that should trigger environmental or clinical intervention. To date, only about 5% of homes contaminated with lead have in fact been abated nationwide. The soil in yards of inner city homes is also potentially a major contributor to lead poisoning in youth, is largely unregulated and thus ignored by current programs. To compound the issue, the turnover in the poorest inner city homes leads to a new, largely uninformed, often immigrant population that reside in the most poorly maintained and highly contaminated areas of our cities.
The current focus of major HUD funding is directed at structure abatement. The focus of this EPA/EMPACT project is directed at collecting residential soil lead data with the aim of increasing public awareness of this health risk and applying low-cost mitigation techniques. The long term goal is to develop a "template for community action" which might be replicated in impacted communities across the US.