The State of Public Health Lead Policies: Implications for Urban Health Inequities and Recommendations for Health Equity

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Mar 24;16(6):1064. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16061064.


Although lead has been removed from paint and gasoline sold in the U.S., lead exposures persist, with communities of color and residents in urban and low-income areas at greatest risk for exposure. The persistence of and inequities in lead exposures raise questions about the scope and implementation of policies that address lead as a public health concern. To understand the multi-level nature of lead policies, this paper and case study reviews lead policies at the national level, for the state of California, and for Santa Ana, CA, a dense urban city in Southern California. Through a community-academic partnership process, this analysis examines lead exposure pathways represented, the level of intervention (e.g., prevention, remediation), and whether policies address health inequities. Results indicate that most national and state policies focus on establishing hazardous lead exposure levels in settings and consumer products, disclosing lead hazards, and remediating lead paint. Several policies focus on mitigating exposures rather than primary prevention. The persistence of lead exposures indicates the need to identify sustainable solutions to prevent lead exposures in the first place. We close with recommendations to reduce lead exposures across the life course, consider multiple lead exposure pathways, and reduce and eliminate health inequities related to lead.

Keywords: environmental justice; environmental racism; health disparities; health inequities; lead; lead in water; lead paint; lead prevention policies; soil lead.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • California
  • Cities
  • Health Equity*
  • Health Policy*
  • Humans
  • Lead
  • Public Health*
  • Urban Health*


  • Lead