The Health Department found, in a brand new report, that in 2016 less than 1% of Philadelphia children screened for lead exposure were found to have enough lead in their blood that the City would reach out to the family to help. Compared to 2007, when 2.3% of Philadelphia children had similar readings, this is really great news. Lead rates in Philadelphia have been consistently dropping since 2007, and this year is no different.

The Health Department report also showed that 38,350 children under the age of six were screened for lead exposure in 2016. It was found that zip codes with high poverty rates and houses built before 1950 were at the highest risk for elevated blood lead levels in children.

Why is this important?

Lead is a dangerous thing. And unfortunately, it can be found in lots of places that babies and young children can get into, like toys, water, and dirt. In Philadelphia, it’s most commonly found in chipping and peeling lead-based paint. Most houses built before 1978–which are the majority of Philadelphia houses–have lead paint in them.

Children who are exposed to lead can experience slow growth and development, damaged hearing and speech, behavior problems, and difficulty paying attention and learning. Children under the age of six are considered to be at the highest risk of lead exposure because they tend to put their hands in their mouths often.

What is the City doing about it?

The City has a Lead Paint Disclosure Law that requires landlords to ensure that property rented to families with children 6 years and younger is lead safe. Tenants can ask their landlords for a City of Philadelphia Certificate of Rental Suitability that will show the property to be safe. The Health Department’s Lead and Healthy Homes Program inspects and helps enforce this law.

In June 2017, the City’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Advisory Group published their Final Report and Recommendations on steps the City can take to further protect our children. Paired with Mayor Jim Kenney’s Lead-Free Kids: Preventing Lead Poisoning in Philadelphia plan, these two reports are guiding how we deal with lead throughout Philadelphia.

What can parents do?

The most important thing a parent can do is to make sure their child gets tested for lead. We recommend that children get a blood lead test around the age of one, and again around the age of two. Children who live in older housing should be screened once a year until the age of six.

Children should be tested at their doctor’s office or a laboratory. Medicaid, CHIP and private insurance covers blood lead testing for children. Children can also be tested anytime for free at any of the City’s health centers.