Urban soil-lead (Pb) footprint: retrospective comparison of public and private properties in New Orleans

Environ Geochem Health. 2008 Jun;30(3):231-42. doi: 10.1007/s10653-007-9111-3.


Lead (Pb) is a toxin that after childhood exposure poses a lifetime of health risks. One route of exposure is soil-Pb as a result of 12 million metric tons of Pb residue in paint and gasoline sold in the US during the 20th Century. Pb accumulated in soil of the community is a good predictor for blood Pb of children living there. This retrospective study compares the soil-Pb on Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) properties with adjacent private residential (RES) properties within a 0.8 km (0.5 mile) radius. The sample subset (n = 951) is from two soil-Pb surveys (total n = 9,493) conducted between 1989 and 2000. The properties were in both the inner city (CORE) and outlying (OUTER) communities. The data were analyzed using multiresponse permutation procedures (MRPP). The soil-Pb results differ significantly (P-value < 0.001) on same-aged HANO properties at different locations; thus, year of construction does not give adequate explanation for the soil-Pb differences. HANO and RES soils are significantly more Pb contaminated in the CORE than in OUTER communities (P-value < 0.001). The CORE has many more years of traffic congestion than OUTER communities; therefore, the lead additives to gasoline, and not lead-based paint, best elucidate the differences of the soil-Pb footprint at HANO and RES properties in the CORE and OUTER communites. Currently HANO properties are being redeveloped with cleaner soil, but soil on RES properties in the CORE of New Orleans remains a large source of Pb (median = 707 mg/kg in this study) for human exposure, especially children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Lead / analysis*
  • Louisiana
  • Public Housing
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*
  • Urban Population


  • Soil Pollutants
  • Lead