A Public Health Approach to Addressing Lead

One of the 10 great public health achievements in recent history is the great progress we have made in reducing childhood lead exposure. Over the past 50 years, EPA and federal and state partners have worked together on actions that have eliminated or drastically reduced the use of lead in gasoline, paint, plumbing pipes, food cans, and a variety of other products. More recently, EPA has cleaned up lead-contaminated waste sites and established standards for dealing with lead-based paint that was used in the previous century. In addition, the public health and medical communities have worked together to increase awareness, identify populations at risk, and provide blood lead testing for communities. As a result of these collective actions, blood lead levels have declined by more than 90% since the mid-1970s.

However, as lead exposures have declined, our understanding of the health effects of lead exposure has improved. We now know that even small amounts of lead can be harmful. We also know that, despite an overall decline in lead exposure around the country, some communities still experience high levels of lead exposure from old, lead-based paint, corroding lead pipes, and industrial waste sites. Thus, it remains a public health priority to continue reducing lead exposure, especially in highly-exposed communities.

Achieving continued meaningful reductions in lead exposure requires a long-term concerted effort that addresses all current and historic sources. This document provides a science-based public health approach and a coordinated strategy for continuing our progress to reduce lead exposures and protect public health. This approach outlines a common set of public health principles that will guide the Agency’s work to eliminate the adverse effects from lead exposure. 

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