Does the Type of Housing a Child Lives in Predict Blood Lead Level?

Elizabeth Alvarado Navarro, University of Texas at El Paso


Background and Significance: Childhood lead exposure continues to be a global health problem that can compromise children’s long-term health. Identifying factors that predict which children may be at the highest risk of exposure is a strategy that could help focus child lead surveillance. Lead is a natural element found in small amounts in the earth’s crust and has been widely used in industry and consumer products since the time of the Romans. Lead, however, is highly toxic for humans and serves no biological purpose in the human body. There is substantial evidence that, even at the lowest levels of exposure, lead is especially harmful to young children. Because not all children can be tested, identifying factors that predict which children are at greatest risk can help focus surveillance of smaller high risk subgroups. Downtown neighborhoods in El Paso, Texas provide an opportunity to begin to better understand factors that predict risk of early child lead exposure. Similar to many cities nationwide, children living in downtown El Paso, Texas are at higher than average risk of early lead exposure, for reasons that are not well understood. Some have suggested that children living in rental properties may be at increased risk of lead exposure as compared to those who live in family-owned homes. This possibility needs to be tested. Aim: The aim of this study was to experimentally test the suggestion that children living in rental properties are at greater risk of lead exposure. Hypothesis: Children who live in rental properties have higher blood lead levels (BLLs) than children who live in owner-occupied properties. Methods: Participants were recruited through public schools and community events, and by parent self-referral. This study included 92 children, 40 boys and 52 girls, between 1 and 12 years of age, living in downtown neighborhoods; 50 lived in rental properties and 42 lived family-owned homes. In homes with more than one child, all children were tested, and the child with the highest current BLL was included for these analyses. Because BLL was not normally distributed, non-parametric tests (Kruskal-Wallis) were used for group comparisons. Chi-square test was used for exploratory analyses that compared the frequencies of children with and without lead exposure, with regard to selected demographic variables. Results and Conclusions: In this sample of 92 children, property type did not predict child BLL. Interestingly, in exploratory analyses, other possible predictive factors were tested and revealed that children from mothers with less than a high school education had significantly higher BLLs. The finding that children from mothers with lower educational levels needs to be explored further. Recommendations: All children deserve to live in a healthy environment. Children are not able to speak for themselves and preventative programs can help to protect these vulnerable members of our communities. Further studies and preventative programs are needed.

Subject Area

Public health|Environmental Health|Toxicology

Recommended Citation

Alvarado Navarro, Elizabeth, "Does the Type of Housing a Child Lives in Predict Blood Lead Level?" (2020). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI27999756.