Ohio’s Lead Paint Hazards

Ohio’s Housing Stock

Lead is found in most of Ohio’s housing stock because the majority of housing units were built prior to 1978, the year the federal government banned lead in house paint. The age of housing is an important risk indictor because, in general, the older the housing unit, the greater the probability the unit has lead paint.

According to the National Center for Healthy Housing, “During the first half of the twentieth century, the lead content of paint was marketed as a measure of its quality – the more lead the better. Prior to about 1940, leaded paints typically contained high amounts of lead, ranging from 10 percent to as much as 50 percent. In the early 1950’s, the paint industry began reducing lead content, although many paints still contained harmful amounts of lead. Federal regulations limited lead content in 1972 and effectively banned lead in residential paints in 1978.”

The 2009-2013 American Community Survey, Physical Housing Characteristics for Occupied Housing Units, 5 Year Estimates for Ohio, reported the age of housing units in Ohio as follows:

  • Approximately 68% (3,094,647) of housing units in Ohio were built before 1980
  • 41% (1,868,638) were built before 1960
  • About 20% (911,531 units) were built before 1940

Incidence of Lead Poisoning

While Ohio’s childhood lead poisoning rates are trending downward, thousands of children continue to have lead in their blood. For 2013, the Ohio Department of Health reported the following statistics:

  • 4,719 children under six had confirmed blood lead levels greater than or equal to 5 µg/dL out of 155, 577 children under age 6 screened for lead poisoning. An additional 3,161 had unconfirmed lead levels, meaning the level was not confirmed with a second, venous test.
  • A total of 3,424 children had confirmed blood lead levels between 5 and 9 µg/dL in 2013. An additional 2,863 had unconfirmed blood lead levels between 5 and 9 µg/dL.

High Risk Areas for Lead Poisoning

In 2012, the Ohio Department of Health commissioned The Ohio State University Statistical Consulting Service to update the state’s high risk zip codes using 2010 census data and a new target level of 5 µg/dL to define lead poisoning. Their report, ”Final Report on Targeted Testing Plan for Childhood Lead Poisoning”, looked at the risk of childhood lead poisoning in Ohio. The five most significant predictors of high proportions of elevated blood-lead levels in Ohio were the percentages of homes built before 1950; population who are African-American; population with either a high school or college education; families whose income-to-poverty ratio was greater than 2; and population under the age of 6.

Using the data reported in the study, ODH updated its list of high risk zip codes that had been in place since the 2000 census and created fact sheets for each Ohio county including a map of the highest risk census tract, number of children with elevated blood lead levels, number of children below 6 receiving blood tests, and state lead testing guidelines.

A recent report titled “Impact of Lead Poisoning on Minority and Low-Income Communities in Toledo, Ohio” by Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE) makes use of some of the study’s findings to call attention to the high childhood lead poisoning levels in Toledo and Lucas County.

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