Lead is one of the most significant and widespread environmental hazards for children in Maryland. Children are at greatest risk from birth to age six while their neurological systems are developing. Sustained exposure to lead can cause long lasting neurological damage or death. Effects of sustained exposure include learning disabilities, shortened attention span, irritability, and lowered IQ.
The major source of exposure for children is lead paint dust from deteriorated lead paint or from home renovation. Most childhood exposure occurs through children's normal hand-to-mouth activity after contact with a source of leaded dust. The most effective prevention of childhood lead poisoning is to reduce or eliminate exposure.
Maryland Department of the Environment's (MDE) Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (Lead Program) serves as the coordinating agency of statewide efforts to eliminate childhood lead poisoning. Under the 1994 "Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing Law", MDE assures compliance with mandatory requirements for lead risk reduction in rental units built before 1978; maintains a statewide listing of registered and inspected units; and, provides blood lead surveillance through a registry of test results of all children tested in Maryland. The Lead Program also oversees case management follow-up by local health departments for children with elevated blood lead levels; certifies and enforces performance standards for inspectors and contractors working in lead hazard reduction; and performs environmental investigations for lead poisoned children. The Lead Program provides oversight for community education to parents, tenants, rental property owners, home owners, and health care providers to enhance their role in lead poisoning prevention.