Monday, January 06, 2020

Lead in the Water

In 2018 20% of the children tested in one Baltimore neighborhood were found to have elevated blood-lead levels. There is no safe level of lead for children and its presence can be very detrimental to a child's health and development. Around half a million children in the USA, between the ages of 1 and 5, have a blood-lead level that exceeds 5 micrograms per deciliter. The problem is most acute among children of low-income families and children of color.

City Lab has used 2018 lead test data from the Maryland Department of the Environment to map the levels of lead found in Baltimore census tracts. In Baltimore's Toxic Legacy census tracts are colored to show the percentage of children who were found to have elevated blood-lead levels when tested. The map includes a story-map format which walks you through some of the data, highlighting some of the areas of the city where the highest levels of lead in children were found.

The map also includes data on race and home ownership, which allows you to explore some of the demographic factors found in areas with high and low blood-lead levels. The Baltimore Toxic Legacy map was developed to illustrate City Lab's article on The Unequal Burden of Urban Lead.

High levels of blood-lead have not only been found in Baltimore's children. Back in 2016, after the water supply in Flint, Michigan was found to be contaminated with lead, Vox released an interactive map showing the risk of lead exposure across the whole United States.

Where is the lead exposure risk in your community? is a choropleth map showing the estimated risk of lead exposure at county level. If you mouse-over a county on the map you can view the estimated risk score. It is important to note that this map gives an estimated risk score based on government data about surrounding environmental factors, such as the age of housing (more likely to contain lead paints). This map is not based on actual tests of blood-lead levels.

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