Patients-to-policy story: Keeping children safe from lead poisoning

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

By Kate Marple & Erin Dexter National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership

The first sign that a home has a lead hazard is usually when a child tests positive for lead poisoning. Despite the fact that more than four million children in the United States live in federally assisted housing and many of those units are decades old, homes are not assessed for lead hazards before families move in. Because of Chicago’s old housing stock, providers at Erie Family Health Centers vigilantly check children’s lead levels every six months until the child is four, and whenever there is a new risk factor introduced into a child’s environment. That’s where, in 2012, just months after moving into a new home with her federal Housing Choice Voucher (HCV), Lanice Walker’s four year-old daughter screened positive for lead poisoning.

The third story in our patients-to-policy story series follows the medical-legal partnership at Erie Family Health Centers, which built a multi-state coalition that got the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to update its federal lead regulations. Now, they are working to pass a federal bill that will require lead inspections of all federally assisted housing units before families move in.