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Current Trends Potential Increase Demand for Lead Testing As a Result of Recent HUD Regulations

A recent U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulation may increase the demand for lead screening in state and local health departments. A tenant who had lived in HUD-supported housing brought suit against HUD as a result of lead poisoning acquired by a child from leaded paint within the housing unit. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff. The case was appealed, and a higher court directed HUD to publish rules and regulations for the systematic inspection and abatement of the lead paint hazard in housing owned or supported by HUD. The rules governing public housing (1) and the regulations for eliminating lead-based paint hazards in Federal Housing Authority (FHA) single family and multifamily housing were subsequently published in the Federal Register (2).

The new policy requires HUD to notify tenants of low-income public housing projects owned by public housing authorities (PHAs) (which are supported by HUD) and constructed before 1978 that the property may contain lead-based paint. Tenants must also be informed of the necessary precautions for avoiding poisoning from lead-based paint, of the symptoms of and treatment for lead poisoning, and of the need for blood-lead screening for children <7 years of age as well as where to go for screening.

If a child's blood lead is elevated (>=25 ug/dl), the tenant is urged to notify the PHA. In both housing units and child-care facilities owned and operated by the PHA, all chewable surfaces and areas where paint is flaking must be tested for leaded paint. When lead-based paint is found, it is to be removed, and parents are to be directed to the local public health agency for laboratory and testing services and for medical follow-up, as appropriate.

Reported by: Div of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects, Center for Environmental Health, CDC.

Editorial Note

Editorial Note: Testing for blood lead requires that blood be sent to a laboratory qualified to analyze both blood lead and erythrocyte protoporphyrin. Although many state and local health departments have ongoing lead screening programs, others, especially those in the western part of the country, are not screening children routinely. Children found to have lead toxicity should be referred for medical follow-up. In addition, the source of lead should be identified through an environmental investigation, and the hazard, abated. Otherwise, the child should be moved into a lead-free environment. This HUD regulation is likely to increase the demand for blood-lead and erythrocyte protoporphyrin testing and medical and environmental follow-up.


  1. US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Lead-based paint hazard elimination in public and Indian housing. Federal Register 1986;51 (Aug 1):2777-92.

  2. US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Lead-based paint hazard elimination in certain FHA single family and multifamily housing programs. Federal Register 1987;52 (Jan 15):1876-96.

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