Several urban neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, have a history of soil, household lead paint, and potential lead-emitting industry contamination.
To (1) describe blood lead levels (BLLs) in target neighborhoods, (2) identify risk factors and sources of lead exposure, (3) describe household environmental lead levels, and (4) compare results with existing data.
A simple, random, cross-sectional sampling strategy was used to enroll children 8 years or younger living in selected Philadelphia neighborhoods with a history of lead-emitting industry during July 2014. Geometric mean of child BLLs and prevalence of BLLs of 5 μg/dL or more were calculated. Linear and logistic regression analyses were used to ascertain risk factors for elevated BLLs.
Among 104 children tested for blood lead, 13 (12.4%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 7.5-20.2) had BLLs of 5 μg/dL or more. The geometric mean BLL was 2.0 μg/dL (95% CI, 1.7-2.3 μg/dL). Higher geometric mean BLLs were significantly associated with front door entryway dust lead content, residence built prior to 1900, and a child currently or ever receiving Medicaid. Seventy-one percent of households exceeded the screening level for soil, 25% had an elevated front door floor dust lead level, 28% had an elevated child play area floor dust lead level, and 14% had an elevated interior window dust lead level. Children in households with 2 to 3 elevated environmental lead samples were more likely to have BLLs of 5 μg/dL or more. A spatial relationship between household proximity to historic lead-emitting facilities and child BLL was not identified.
Entryway floor dust lead levels were strongly associated with blood lead levels in participants. Results underscore the importance to make housing lead safe by addressing all lead hazards in and around the home. Reduction of child lead exposure is crucial, and continued blood lead surveillance, testing, and inspection of homes of children with BLLs of 5 μg/dL or more to identify and control lead sources are recommended. Pediatric health care providers can be especially vigilant screening Medicaid-eligible/enrolled children and children living in very old housing.