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. 2019 Jun 12;16(12):2068.
doi: 10.3390/ijerph16122068.

Curtailing Lead Aerosols: Effects of Primary Prevention on Declining Soil Lead and Children's Blood Lead in Metropolitan New Orleans

Free PMC article

Curtailing Lead Aerosols: Effects of Primary Prevention on Declining Soil Lead and Children's Blood Lead in Metropolitan New Orleans

Howard W Mielke et al. Int J Environ Res Public Health. .
Free PMC article


After decades of accumulation of lead aerosols in cities from additives in gasoline, in 1975 catalytic converters (which are ruined by lead) became mandatory on all new cars. By 1 January 1986 the rapid phase-down banned most lead additives. The study objective is to review temporal changes of environmental lead and children's blood lead in communities of metropolitan New Orleans. In 2001, a soil lead survey of 287 census tracts of metropolitan New Orleans was completed. In August-September 2005 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita storm surges flooded parts of the city with sediment-loaded water. In April-June 2006, 46/287 (16%) of the original census tracts were selected for resurvey. A third survey of 44/46 (15%) census tracts was completed in 2017. The census tract median soil lead and children's median blood lead decreased across surveys in both flooded and unflooded areas. By curtailing a major urban source of lead aerosols, children's lead exposure diminished, lead loading of soil decreased, and topsoil lead declined. Curtailing lead aerosols is essential for primary prevention. For the sake of children's and ultimately societal health and welfare, the long-term habitability of cities requires terminating all remaining lead aerosols and cleanup of legacy-lead that persists in older inner-city communities.

Keywords: Cochrane collaboration; blood lead decline; mapping soil lead and blood lead; soil lead decline; tetraethyl lead; topsoil.

Conflict of interest statement

H.W.M. contributed personal funds to finish the 2013–2017 survey. He is also the unremunerated President of Lead Lab, Inc. a non-profit research and educational organization. All authors declare they have no conflicts of interest.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Rise and fall of lead aerosol deposition in Arctic ice before and after the 1975 introduction of unleaded gasoline to protect the catalytic converter, modified from [13].
Figure 2
Figure 2
Map of the 44 census tracts in this study showing median flood water depth from Hurricane Katrina (31 August 2005).
Figure 3
Figure 3
The Y axis shows the median children’s blood Pb in 44 communities for 1998–2000 (red) compared with communities surveyed in 2006–2010 (blue) and 2011–2017 (green). For each community children’s median blood Pb are paired in the X axis with the corresponding median soil Pb.

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