Institute of Politics


The Health and Human Services Policy Committee, chaired by Pennsylvania Representative Dan Frankel and Candi Castleberry Singleton, have begun to look at the issue of environmental lead exposure in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The Insitute is working with regional partners to develop a forum that will focus on the sources of lead exposure, including paint chips, dust, soil, and drinking water, and regional solutions to mitigate exposure. 

An analysis by the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) found that elevated blood lead levels within Pennsylvania are more prevalent in the Commonwealth’s cities because of the greater number of children under seven, low income families, and older housing (i.e. built before 1950). In looking at 20 of Pennsylvania’s large municipalities, including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the DOH found elevated blood lead levels at rates more than twice the rest of the state.

The primary source of lead exposure within Allegheny County is paint from paint chips and dust. The county has older housing stock which increases the chance of lead paint being found in homes. More than 86 percent of Allegheny County’s housing was constructed before the discontinued use of lead based paints. 60 percent of homes in the county were built before 1950, which carry a higher risk of lead based paint.

Exposure to lead can have profound impact on individual cognitive function and societal public health, including increased rates of ADHD, increased rate of antisocial behaviors, and diminished physical health outcomes. 

The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) engages in a variety of efforts to reduce and monitor lead exposure within Allegheny County. These programs include surveillance, risk assessment of sources, prevention, and response to children and families effected by lead. Furthermore, PA Departmental of Health, PSWA, and many community organizations such as The Penn State Extension, Grow Pittsburgh and the Allegheny County Conversation District, are working to develop strategies for mitigating lead exposure.

Photo by the Centers for Diesase Control and Prevention