Soil Lead Exposure


Soil lead contamination can be understood and detected by the general public using a variety of government resources, including soil and blood testing supported by laws. Once detected, solutions for soil contamination can be implemented to mitigate exposure and decrease blood levels, with varying levels of cost. 

Source: EPA. (2023). “USGS Background Soil-Lead Survey: State Data” (2007-2010)

Safe Soil Lead Concentration: 80 mg/kg or below (California DTSC, n.d.)

Access to information

The CDC and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acknowledge the importance of granting the homeowners resources to test their soil. The EPA (2020), provides a list of laboratories approved by their National Lead Laboratory Accreditation Program, which provides information for sites across the United States. These NLLAP certified labs allow people to test samples of soil, dust, or paint chips for lead contamination. Soil tests cost anywhere between $7 to $200 per sample, however some states offer testing free of charge.  

Source: EPA. (2023). “USGS Background Soil-Lead Survey: State Data” (2007-2010)

Policies in Place

In 2016, President Barack Obama approved the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act of the 21st Century, amending the Toxic Substance Control Act. The new act mandated the EPA to evaluate existing chemicals, increase public transparency on the chemical information, and establish consistent funding for the EPA to fulfill these requirements (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2022).   

Additionally, the EPA has decreased the minimum blood lead concentration to 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood. This level can lead to serious health risks for children. To be proactive, the EPA uses the Integrated Exposure Uptake Biokinetic and the Adult Lead Methodology to estimate the blood lead levels for children, pregnant women and their developing babies (U.S. EPA, 2022).   

The Illinois Lead Poisoning Prevention Act and Illinois Lead Poisoning Prevention Code requires that children under the age of 6 be screened for lead content in their blood and buildings be inspected for those with elevated lead levels (Illinois General Assembly, n.d.). The Illinois Department of Public Health (2022) offered $12 million in grants for lead poisoning awareness. This funded 3 municipalities with $14 million for lead awareness/testing, and $900,000 for Health Home supplements.


The CDC (2022) notes that lead is able to travel through particulate matter and be inhaled, causing exposure. Soil lead exposure risk may generally decrease or be eliminated if contaminated soil is covered, such as with grass or wood chips, they also note. For gardening, the CDC advises that lead contaminated soil not be used, and alternatives such as container gardeners be utilized instead. Additionally, they advise that members of a household take off their shoes when entering a house to reduce particulate exposure, and advise no direct contact with bare soil for children. 

These solutions range from relatively costly with complete soil coverage, to free to implement with taking off shoes indoors and not allowing children to play in bare soil.

Article written by Cameron Rivera, Jocelyn Lopez, and Seth Kirby

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