Childhood Lead Poisoning in Baltimore: A Generation Imperiled As Laws Ignored

September 2002 / Abell Reports / Education, Health and Human Services

It is the chief environmental disease affecting Baltimore City’s children, and it is entirely preventable. Three recommendations to avoid making our children victims of 45 years of catch-up.

Baltimore City children remain woefully unprotected from lead poisoning and its long-lasting harmful effects. Thousands of City children live in dangerous rental properties out of compliance with State law. Thousands are not identified, despite laws which require a routine blood test. If identified, available services are overburdened and fail to address the most serious of lead poisoning’s effects – developmental delays and cognitive impairment.

  • At the current pace of cleaning up lead-laden rental properties, it will take at least 45 years to address only the most dangerous portion of the housing market – private rental units constructed before 1950 and not in compliance with State lead laws.
  • Federal requirements to perform a blood test to identify lead poisoning in young children on Medical Assistance are violated for nearly half of eligible children in the City. Recent City and State laws extend this testing requirement to every City resident at ages 12 and 24 months. Penalty provisions in these laws are weak and unlikely to be enforced.
  • Services available to children who have been lead poisoned do not include educational interventions aimed at improving outcomes in school.