Lead Paint Still Affecting Children Decades After Ban

HAGERSTOWN, MD - The United States banned lead paint in homes in 1978, but it's not gone. Experts says lead poisoning is still the leading environmental hazard for kids in Maryland today.

"In Maryland we reduced lead poisoning in terms of the highest level kids, but what we're seeing now is more kids actually getting poisoned in owner occupied, home owner properties," says Wes Stewart, Director of Program Services with the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning. "Sometimes that's from unsafe renovation, where families aren't using safe lead practices."

The EPA Renovation Rule now requires all work done on property built before 1978 to use safe practices and trained workers.

"You want to scrape all the loose lead paint off, put kills down for the base and put another fresh layer of latex over top and then you'll get it tested and most likely it'll pass," says Josh Merrbaugh, a local contractor.

Most of the cases of lead poisoning across the state actually come from dust from building renovation. Children under six are the most susceptible.

The Department of Planning showed more over 3,100 kids in Maryland, under the age of six, have dangerous lead levels in their blood, but Congress just cut funds to lead poisoning prevention programs in the state from $29-million to less than $2-million.

"Kids under six should get tested every year, especially in at-risk and older areas like Frederick and Hagerstown where kids live in older housing: they're much more at risk of getting lead poisoning," says Stewart.

Until 2015 when state law kicks in to regulate lead levels in homes built before 1978, experts say test your home and test your kids to keep safe from the irreversible effects of lead poisoning.

To research lead reports, see the Maryland Department of the Environment's website.

Also, search the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning's work here.

Or, to find contractors and resources for lead safety in your home, see the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative's website.

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