The Alliance is a national public interest organization formed by leaders in public health, environmental protection, affordable housing, and civil rights. The Alliance seeks to protect children from lead and other environmental health hazards in and around their homes by advocating for policy solutions and building capacity for primary prevention in communities throughout the US and around the world. Founded in 1990 to focus a comprehensive solution to childhood lead poisoning, the Alliance was designed to have the technical capacity and comprehensive reach across disciplines needed to effect change on a broad scale.

Over our twelve-year history, the Alliance has achieved impressive results, serving as an effective advocate and resource to federal agencies, policymakers, grassroots groups, the private sector, and the media on the technical and policy issues related to preventing lead poisoning. The Alliance brings demonstrated expertise, credibility, and effectiveness in finding practical solutions to technical, policy and legislative problems and overcoming real world obstacles to implementation. Critical achievements of the Alliance include:

Shifting the National Approach to Prevention. The Alliance has worked consistently to move the system beyond reacting to poisoned children to preventing and controlling lead hazards beforehand. The Alliance was instrumental in shaping the landmark 1992 legislation that remains today the driving force for controlling lead-based paint hazards in housing. At the local level, our “primary prevention strategies” reports provided a blueprint for local policy and programs and highlighted the benefits of prevention.

Expanding Resources for Prevention. Over the past decade, the Alliance has worked to increase funding for lead poisoning prevention at all levels. We have won increased funds for controlling lead hazards in low-income housing, screening children at risk, and high-quality research to validate the effectiveness of cost-effective solutions. Millions of properties receiving federal subsidies for rehab and rental assistance must now meet meaningful lead-safety requirements.

Brokering Innovative Policies. Alliance staff and board members played key roles in crafting the consensus lead-safety recommendations endorsed by the “Title X Task Force.” The Model State Law we developed with the National Conference of State Legislatures is the primary guide used by state legislators. The Alliance helped break the impasse on national blood lead screening guidelines and is now working to ensure that Medicaid provides screening, treatment, and prevention services as required.

If your home was built before 1978, it may contain lead paint. Homes built before 1950 have the most lead paint. Lead paint was most often used on windows, trim, porches and outside walls. Paint repair and remodeling projects that involve old paint can create severe lead dust hazards. Protect your family – whether you do the work yourself or hire a painter or contractor.

1. Seal Off the Area

Keep children and pregnant women out of the room.
Remove as much furniture as you can from the room. Cover remaining furniture with heavy plastic sheets.
Cover the work area floor with heavy plastic.
Be careful not to track dust out of the area.
Do not eat, drink or smoke while working.

2. Avoid Dust, Chips or Fumes

Mist paint before you scrape or sand. Water helps keep lead dust from the air.
Don’t sand blast or power wash. This makes clouds of lead dust.
Power sanders or grinders should have HEPA filters and hoods to trap dust.
Do not use open flames or heat guns above 1100° F.
Do not use paint strippers with methylene chloride.

3. Keep the Area Clean

Place trash in heavy plastic bags.
Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to clean up dust and debris.
Scrub floors and walls with soap and water. Rinse well with clean water.
Never burn trash with lead in it.
Conduct a dust test to be sure the area is safe for children or pregnant women.

4. Keep Dust Off Yourself

Be careful not to track lead dust around your home.
Change work clothes and shoes right after you leave the work area.
Wash work clothes separately from your family’s laundry.
Shower and wash your hair as soon as possible.

What is Lead Poisoning?

Lead is a heavy metal used in many materials and products. When absorbed into the body, it is highly toxic to many organs and systems and seriously hinders the body’s neurological development. Lead is a natural element and does not break down in the environment. Once lead has been dispersed and redeposited into the environment, it will remain to poison generations of children unless it is controlled or removed. Even very limited exposures to lead are hazardous to children.

The Problem of Childhood Lead Poisoning

Over the past 20 years, childhood lead poisoning has declined dramatically in the United States due to limits on lead in gasoline, paint, food cans, and other consumer products. However, lead poisoning is still an important health problem, affecting an estimated 890,000 preschoolers. That means that about 4.4% of children aged 1 to 5 have too much lead in their bodies. (source: NHANES III, Phase 2, 1991-1994, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

While lead poisoning crosses all socioeconomic, geographic, and racial boundaries, the burden of this disease falls disproportionately on low-income families and families of color. In the U.S., children from poor families are eight times more likely to be poisoned than those from higher income families. African-American children are five times more likely to be poisoned than white children. About 22% of African-American children living in pre-1946 housing are lead poisoned, compared with 5.6% of White children and 13% of Mexican children living in older homes – a staggering statistic. In some communities, the poisoning rate is much higher.

CDC reports that the geometric mean (population-wide average) blood lead level in children aged 1-5 dropped from 2.7 µg/dL (for the years 1991-94) to 2.0 µg/dL for 1999. This substantial decline reflects continuing progress in reducing the lead burden of the American population at large.

Health Effects

Lead affects practically all systems within the body. Lead is most harmful to children under age six because lead is easily absorbed into their growing bodies, and interferes with the developing brain and other organs and systems. Pregnant women and women of child-bearing age are also at increased risk, because lead ingested by the mother can cross the placenta and affect the unborn fetus.

At very high levels of lead exposure, which are now very rare in the U.S., lead poisoning can cause mental retardation, coma, convulsions, and even death.

More commonly in the U.S., children are poisoned through chronic, low-level exposure. Low-level lead exposure can cause reduced IQ and attention span, hyperactivity, impaired growth, reading and learning disabilities, hearing loss, insomnia, and a range of other health, intellectual, and behavioral effects. At these low, but still dangerous levels, lead poisoning may not present identifiable symptoms and a blood test is the only way to know if a child is poisoned.

Except for severely poisoned children, there is no medical treatment for this disease. Available treatments may only reduce the level of lead present in the body, without completely eliminating it. The only way to prevent lead poisoning is to remove the source of exposure.