The prevalence of lead-based paint hazards in U.S. housing

Environ Health Perspect. 2002 Oct;110(10):A599-606. doi: 10.1289/ehp.021100599.


In this study we estimated the number of housing units in the United States with lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards. We included measurements of lead in intact and deteriorated paint, interior dust, and bare soil. A nationally representative, random sample of 831 housing units was evaluated in a survey between 1998 and 2000; the units and their occupants did not differ significantly from nationwide characteristics. Results indicate that 38 million housing units had lead-based paint, down from the 1990 estimate of 64 million. Twenty-four million had significant lead-based paint hazards. Of those with hazards, 1.2 million units housed low-income families (< 30,000 US dollars/year) with children under 6 years of age. Although 17% of government-supported, low-income housing had hazards, 35% of all low-income housing had hazards. For households with incomes greater than or equal to 30,000 US dollars/year, 19% had hazards. Fourteen percent of all houses had significantly deteriorated lead-based paint, and 16% and 7%, respectively, had dust lead and soil lead levels above current standards of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The prevalence of lead-based paint and hazards increases with age of housing, but most painted surfaces, even in older housing, do not have lead-based paint. Between 2% and 25% of painted building components were coated with lead-based paint. Housing in the Northeast and Midwest had about twice the prevalence of hazards compared with housing in the South and West. The greatest risk occurs in older units with lead-based paint hazards that either will be or are currently occupied by families with children under 6 years of age and are low-income and/or are undergoing renovation or maintenance that disturbs lead-based paint. This study also confirms projections made in 2000 by the President's Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children of the number of houses with lead-based paint hazards. Public- and private-sector resources should be directed to units posing the greatest risk if future lead poisoning is to be prevented.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Welfare*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cities
  • Data Collection
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Housing*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lead / analysis*
  • Lead Poisoning / etiology
  • Paint*
  • Poverty
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Assessment
  • United States


  • Lead