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lead-safe homes
This indicator is measured by:
  • Number of Homes Made Lead-Paint-Hazard-Free through DDOE Enforcement
Old Lead Paint Can
Although now banned, lead paint was once a common industrial and household product. Photo credit: Thester11, via Wikimedia Commons

Prior to 1978, lead, a very toxic metal found in the Earth’s crust, was used in products in many homes, schools, and office buildings across the country. Lead is present in a number of sources, but it is most commonly found in paint chips (from peeling paint on walls, furniture, or toys), soil surrounding the home, household dust (accumulated from contaminated soil or deteriorating paint), or in the air when it is released during certain industrial processes. Lead can enter the human body when a person consumes paint chips containing lead, drinks lead-contaminated water, or inhales or ingests lead dust. 

Deteriorating lead-based paint is one of the leading sources of lead poisoning, so it is important that District residents who live in older buildings know the facts about the potential risks of lead. Lead is especially harmful to children because their bodies absorb more lead, and their brains and nervous systems are more easily damaged by lead’s effects. Children suffering from elevated levels of lead may experience brain damage, behavior or learning problems, hearing loss, and slowed growth.  Recent research has shown that even relatively low levels of lead in blood can cause adverse health effects in young children.  Adults exposed to lead may suffer nerve disorders, joint pain, memory problems, and reproductive problems.  And because lead crosses the placenta, pregnant women who are exposed to lead pass that lead straight to the fetus.

Federal law requires that contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb more than six square feet of paint in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978 need to be certified and trained to follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.  If lead based paint is removed improperly from a home the health risks can actually be elevated for its residents. The District of Columbia’s Lead-Hazard Prevention and Elimination Act of 2008 and recent amendments to the act extend federal law with stronger protections for pregnant women and children under age six. The Act considers any paint in or on a pre-1978 residential property or “child-occupied facility” (such as a daycare or kindergarten classroom) to be lead-based paint. Under the Act, landlords must provide proof of lead safety to prospective tenants that include a child under six years of age or a pregnant woman.  Both Federal and District law also require that landlords inform tenants about any known lead paint hazards in the building, and District officials are authorized to require that landlords pay for temporary relocation of tenants pending elimination of identified lead-based paint hazards, if conditions warrant it. 

Peeling Paint
Peeling paint may look harmless, but it can pose significant dangers if it contains lead. Photo credit: Daniel Schwen, via Wikimedia Commons
Inspections and risk assessments are authorized if there is a “reasonable belief” of a lead-based paint hazard. Tenants may notify the government of a possible lead-hazard, which often results in a visual inspection or risk assessment. District inspectors may examine pre-1978 properties for paint deterioration and issue Notices of Violation and Orders to Eliminate Lead-Based Paint Hazards. This authority allows the District government to help reduce lead risks before anyone, especially a child, is harmed. The District Department of Housing and Community Development’s Lead Safe Washington provides grant funds to identify and control lead-based paint hazards in homes containing a child under 6.

How is the indicator defined? How often updated?

The indicator is defined by the number of homes that have been made lead-paint-hazard-free through DDOE enforcement work. The data is updated annually by the District Department of the Environment. 

What influences this indicator? 

District landlords’ level of compliance with the District lead law certainly influences this indicator, in addition to residents’ level of awareness about lead paint hazards. The amount of funding for lead-based paint hazard remediation work also plays a role in the number of homes that are made lead-paint-hazard free. 

What you can do to help:

  • Ensure that old paint in your home is not deteriorating. Lead-based paint is typically not hazardous if it has been maintained in good condition.  Keep your floor and window sill surfaces clean and free of dust.
  • Make sure that lead-safe work practices are being used if maintenance, repair, or renovations are occurring. See Section 12 of the Lead-Hazard Prevention and Elimination Act of 2008, as amended, for specific information.
  • If your job involves working with lead, be cautious about bringing lead into your home. Wash your work clothes separately from those of your family if you have been exposed to lead at your workplace, take a shower before entering your home, and change into clean clothes before entering your home.
  • If your home has deteriorated paint that you believe contains lead (if your home was built prior to 1978, it likely does), visit DHCD’s Lead Safe Washington website to determine if you or your building are eligible for the program’s grant funds for the identification and control of lead-based paint hazards.
  • If you believe that there may be lead in your residence’s plumbing, get your water tested, or run the water for several minutes before using it to drink or cook with, using only cold water from your faucets for such purposes. Purchase a filter that meets National Sanitation Foundation Standard 53 for lead removal, especially if you are pregnant or have children under the age of six.

Links to related programs

DDOE Lead-Based Paint Accreditation, Certification and Permitting Program

Lead Safe Washington, D.C.

Other Links

LEAD: Frequently Asked Questions

EPA’s Lead Advisory Page  

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control

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