Since 1993, the San Francisco Childhood Lead Prevention Program (CLPP), part of the SF Department of Public Health, has worked to eliminate lead hazards in San Francisco. The program recently published the “Two Decades Protecting San Francisco Children from Exposure to Lead” report, which highlights all of the accomplishments to date in protecting children from lead exposure.
The program’s mission is to ensure that all children live in healthy environments. No level of lead exposure to children is without risk of causing cognitive and health impacts, and at least 85 percent of housing units in San Francisco were built before 1978 (the year when the manufacture of lead-based paint for residential use was banned) Since the most prevalent source of lead exposure for children in San Francisco is from damaged paint the CLPP has their work cut out for them.
On average, about 500 San Francisco children per year are reported with lead exposure as detected by blood lead testing. Notably, while certain districts have a greater burden of lead sources based on age of housing, children with lead exposure have been identified in every neighborhood of San Francisco.
Take a listen to Karen Cohn, Program Manager for the Children’s Environmental Health Promotion Program, and Joe Walseth, who recently retired from Environmental Health, talk about the program, its progress and next steps. Karen has been working with the Childhood Lead Prevention Program for over 20 years and Joe had spent 17 years with the program before his retirement. Find out what makes lead prevention in San Francisco unique and how San Francisco might be able to get rid of all lead sources in the city!
San Francisco has been very innovative in its legislation to prevent lead exposure for children. Due to the proactive approach afforded to the Health Department, the Environmental Health Branch has code authority to require that property owners eliminate lead hazards in any environment where a child under six spends significant time. The CLPP can enforce this lead hazard prohibition regardless of whether a child’s blood has been tested and, if tested, regardless of the result. The CLPP’s policy is that children should not bear the burden of lead hazard detection and that the provision of environmental investigation services at the lowest limit of lead exposure detection effectively prevents continued lead exposure.
The CLPP measures the effectiveness of this approach by comparing the proportion of higher blood lead levels found earlier in the program, when the CLPP only responded to high CDPH-case defined blood lead levels (>15 twice or >20 ug/dL once) to now, when the CLPP responds to all detected blood lead levels, offering home inspection for lead hazards and subsequent code enforcement.
The infographic above provides more details on lead exposure and CLPP’s work to prevent lead exposure in children.