Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (July 27, 2009) – The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE)’s annual statewide Childhood Lead Registry surveillance statistics, released today, show that more children were tested and the percentage of children with an elevated blood lead level decreased during calendar year 2008.

“While having even one child in Maryland with elevated levels of lead is one too many, we are encouraged that our work to end childhood lead poisoning is having an effect, as evidenced by the increased number of children tested and the lower number of children with elevated levels of lead,” said Governor Martin O’Malley.

Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Shari T. Wilson said: “Working with state, local, and community partners, including the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, we are making progress toward our goal of no children with elevated blood lead levels by 2010. Continued progress depends upon property owners returning registration renewals on time and performing required risk reduction treatments before new tenants move in. Through enforcement actions, MDE continues to ensure that owners of rental properties built before 1950 who have not yet registered or performed required risk reduction treatments come into compliance with the law.”

Lead paint risk reduction can include a test for lead contaminated dust or treatments such as removing chipping, peeling, and flaking paint; covering window sills and wells with vinyl or aluminum; rehanging doors that rub against door jambs; or replacing old windows.

Key statistics from the 2008 Childhood Lead Registry annual survey:

  • Children tested: Statewide, 106,452 children under the age of 6 years were tested, an increase over the 2007 figure of 105,708. In Baltimore City, 18,622 children were tested, an increase from 17,670 in 2007.
  • Elevated blood lead level (EBL level): 713 children (or 0.7 percent) had an elevated blood lead level, which by law is 10 micrograms per deciliter or above. This is lower than the 0.8 percent in 2007. In Baltimore City, the EBL was 2.5 percent, which is down from 3.5 percent in 2007.

Lead is one of the most significant and widespread environmental hazards for children in Maryland. Lead paint dust from deteriorated lead paint or renovation work is the major source of exposure for children in Maryland. The effects of lead poisoning, a preventable disease, may result in poor school performance, inability to read, aggressive behavior, hearing loss or even mental retardation. Children are at greatest risk from birth to age six, while their neurological systems are developing. MDE’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program serves as the coordinating agency of statewide efforts to eliminate childhood lead poisoning. Maryland’s lead poisoning prevention goal, adopting the same goal as the national Center for Disease Control and Prevention, is for no child to have an elevated blood lead level by the end of year 2010.

Although the Maryland Lead Law is focused on residential rental properties built before 1950, other rental properties built from 1950 to 1978 and owner-occupied residential properties built before 1979 are a growing concern. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2004 American Community Survey there are more than 449,000 residential houses built before 1950 (90 percent likely to contain lead paint) and 972,000 houses built between 1950-1979 (60-80 percent likely to have lead paint).

Statewide, 62 percent of the children with an elevated blood lead level live in properties not covered by the Lead Law. In Baltimore City that figure is 50 percent. Residents and owners of these properties need to be aware that lead poisoning can occur in any housing built before 1979. Safe work practices must be employed to prevent creation of lead hazards when doing maintenance and renovation in any home built before 1979.

Water, air, and soil, may provide low-level “background” exposure, but rarely cause childhood lead poisoning. Imported products, parental occupations, hobbies, and imported traditional medicines occasionally cause lead exposure among children.

The MDE Lead Poisoning Prevention Program’s online database provides information about rental properties to the public, for example, users may search a property tax number or address to determine if that property is registered and has a current certificate on file with MDE. In addition, users may enter limited information, such as a street name, a city, a postal code, or some combination, to create a list of properties that are registered and have a current certificate.

To view the childhood lead registry data online, and for more information about childhood lead poisoning prevention, please visit MDE's website or call 410-537-3825.