Press Release

ANNAPOLIS, MD (August 27, 2010) – First Lady Katie O’Malley, joined by MDE Deputy Secretary Robert Summers, Baltimore City Deputy Health Commissioner for Healthy Homes & Communities Dr. Madeleine Shea, EPA Region III Director of the Land and Chemicals Division Abe Ferdas, Executive Director of the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning Ruth Ann Norton, today released the annual Childhood Lead Registry and announced that more Maryland children were tested last year for lead poisoning and fewer were poisoned by lead than in any year since figures have been collected.

The report, released by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) shows the percentage of tested children with elevated lead blood levels dropped to one half of one percent statewide. The statistics show a decrease of nearly 98 percent in the percentage of children reported to have blood poisoning since 1993, the year before Maryland’s Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing Law was enacted.

“While even one child with elevated levels of lead is one too many, this report shows that our efforts in Maryland to end childhood lead poisoning are working,” said Maryland’s First Lady Katie O’Malley. “Working with many state, local, and community partners, and Baltimore City and the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, Maryland has made significant gains to protect our children, particularly those who live in older rental housing. However, we must do more. We need to spread the word that childhood lead poisoning can occur in owner-occupied homes and encourage those homeowners to take steps to prevent that from happening.”

Today’s announcement took place in East Baltimore at a 1936 owner-occupied row home, where First Lady O’Malley was joined by the home’s owner, Deirdre Young Randall. The owner’s 8-month-old grandson lives in the home, and a 3-year-old grandson visits frequently. The home is part of the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning’s Green and Healthy Housing initiative and has received, along with a full energy audit and weatherization, 11 new windows and paint stabilization throughout the house. The Coalition’s contractors are EPA-certified.

While the number of recorded lead poisoning cases continues to decrease, MDE’s review shows that children with elevated blood lead levels are more likely to live in homes not covered by Maryland’s lead law. Maryland’s law is focused on residential rental properties built before 1950. A new federal Environmental Protection Agency rule adds requirements to prevent lead poisoning when work is done on homes built before the late 1970s (when lead-based paint was banned) and other facilities occupied by young children.

“Reducing exposure to lead paint dust is the core of our program to prevent lead poisoning,” said MDE Deputy Secretary Robert Summers. “MDE continues to enforce Maryland’s successful lead law. Childhood lead poisoning is not just a rental housing problem. It can occur in any housing built before 1978. The new EPA rule -- and educated contractors, homeowners, renters, and parents -- will help us continue to move forward toward our goal of no children with lead poisoning in Maryland.”

Key statistics from the 2009 Childhood Lead Registry annual survey include:

  • Children tested: Statewide, 107,416 children under the age of 6 years were tested, which is an increase over the 2008 figure of 106,452. In Baltimore City, 19,043 children were tested, an increase from 18,622 in 2008.
  • Elevated blood lead level (EBL): 553 children (or 0.5 percent) had an elevated blood lead level, which by law is 10 micrograms per deciliter or above. This is lower than the 713 (0.7 percent) in 2008. In Baltimore City, the 347 children (1.8 percent) had an EBL, which is down from 468 (2.5 percent) in 2008.
  • New cases: Of the EBL cases statewide for 2009, 379 were cases in which a child tested with an EBL for the first time.
Exposure to lead is the most significant and widespread environmental hazard for children in Maryland, and according to the Center for Disease Control, there is no safe level of blood lead. Children are at the greatest risk from birth to age six while their neurological systems are being developed. Exposure to lead can cause long-term neurological damage that may be associated with learning and behavioral problems and with decreased intelligence.

Among other data, the annual Childhood Lead Registry survey compiles all blood lead tests done on Maryland children up to 18 years of age, and provides blood lead test results to local health departments as needed for case management and planning. Only the data for children under the age of 6 years is used for review of the lead poisoning prevention effort. MDE has compiled this comprehensive assessment on statewide childhood blood lead screening since 1993. Maryland’s lead poisoning prevention goal is for no child to have an elevated blood lead level by the end of year 2010.

Lead paint dust from deteriorated lead paint or from renovation is the major source of exposure for children in Maryland. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2004 American Community Survey there are more than 449,000 residential houses built before 1950 (95 percent likely to contain lead paint) and 972,000 houses built between 1950-1978 (75 percent likely to have lead paint).

Various lead paint inspection services are available to homeowners to identify lead paint or to evaluate lead paint hazards. A list of accredited inspection contractors can be found at

Homeowners may do some limited testing, but information provided by a trained and accredited inspector will generally be more complete and definitive.

Anyone who removes lead paint or who conducts any other maintenance or home improvement activity that creates a hazard by disturbing lead paint should follow the safe practices that are included in Maryland Lead Paint Abatement Regulations. Safety precautions can be found on MDE’s website, at EPA recommends that anyone planning a “do-it-yourself” renovation project call the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD (5323) and ask for more information on how to work safely in a home with lead-based paint.

EPA’s new rule applies to anyone receiving compensation for renovating, repairing, and painting work that disturbs painted surfaces in pre-1978 residences and to anyone performing similar work on facilities built prior to 1978 and occupied by children under the age of 6. Those affected by the rule are required to: apply to EPA to be approved as a Certified Renovation Firm; receive necessary training and certification from an EPA-accredited training provider for Lead Safe Work Practices; assign a Certified Renovator to be present at each project; and ensure that lead safe work practices are used throughout the project.

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

MDE’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program serves as the coordinating agency of statewide efforts to eliminate childhood lead poisoning. To view the childhood lead registry data online, and for more information about childhood lead poisoning prevention, please visit:
or call 410-537-3847.