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Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Feb;120(2):309-15. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1103606. Epub 2011 Oct 14.

Rochester's lead law: evaluation of a local environmental health policy innovation.

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University of Rochester Medical Center, Environmental Health Sciences Center, 601 Elmwood Ave., Box EHSC, Rochester, NY 14642 USA.



Significant progress has been made in reducing the incidence of childhood lead poisoning in the United States in the past three decades. However, the prevalence of elevated blood lead in children (≥ 10 μg/dL) remains high in some communities, particularly those with high proportions of pre-1978 housing in poor condition. Increasingly, municipalities are using local policy tools to reduce lead poisoning in high-risk areas, but little is known about the effectiveness of such policies.


In this article, we evaluated the effectiveness of a comprehensive rental housing-based lead law adopted in Rochester, New York, in 2005.


This policy evaluation integrates analyses of city inspections data, a survey of landlords, landlord focus groups, and health department data on children's blood lead levels from the first 4 years of implementation of the 2005 law.


Implementation has proceeded consistent with projected numbers of inspections with nearly all target units inspected in the first 4 years. Higher than expected inspection passage rates suggest that landlords have reduced lead hazards in rental housing affected by the law. Implementation of the lead law does not appear to have had a significant impact on the housing market.


Although many uncertainties remain, our analysis suggests that the lead law has had a positive impact on children's health. Strong enforcement, support for community-based lead programs, and ongoing intergovernmental coordination will be necessary to maintain lead-safe housing in Rochester. Lessons learned from the Rochester experience may inform future local lead poisoning prevention policies in other communities.

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