Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

A Study of Urban Housing Demolitions as Sources of Lead in Ambient Dust: Demolition Practices and Exterior Dust Fall

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

A Study of Urban Housing Demolitions as Sources of Lead in Ambient Dust: Demolition Practices and Exterior Dust Fall

Article excerpt

Demolition of older housing for urban redevelopment purposes benefits communities by removing housing with lead paint and dust hazards and by creating spaces for lead paint-free housing and other community resources. This study was conducted to assess changes, if any, in ambient dust lead levels associated with demolition of blocks of older lead-containing row houses in Baltimore, Maryland (USA). In this article we present results based on dust-fall samples collected from fixed locations within 10 m of three demolition sites. In subsequent reports we will describe dust lead changes on streets, sidewalks, and residential floors within 100 m of the demolition sites. Geometric mean (GM) lead dust-fall rate increased by > 40-fold during demolition to 410 [micro]g Pb/[m.sup.2]/hr (2,700 [micro]g Pb/[m.sup.2] per typical work day) and by > 6-fold during debris removal to 61 [micro]g Pb/[m.sup.2]/hr (440 [micro]g Pb/[m.sup.2] per typical work day). Lead concentrations in dust fall also increased during demolition (GM, 2,600 mg/kg) and debris removal (GM, 1,500 mg/kg) compared with baseline (GM, 950 mg/kg). In the absence of dust-fall standards, the results were compared with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (U.S. EPA's) dust-lead surface loading standard for interior residential floors (40 [micro]g/[ft.sup.2], equivalent to 431 [micro]g/[m.sup.2]); daily lead dust fall during demolition exceeded the U.S. EPA floor standard by 6-fold on average and as much as 81-fold on an individual sample basis. Dust fall is of public health concern because it settles on surfaces and becomes a pathway of ambient lead exposure and a potential pathway of residential exposure via tracking and blowing of exterior dust. The findings highlight the need to minimize demolition lead deposition and to educate urban planners, contractors, health agencies, and the public about lead and other community concerns so that society can maximize the benefits of future demolition activities nationwide. Key words: demolition, demolition practices, dust fall, dust lead, environment, lead, lead sources, urban housing, urban redevelopment. Environ Health Perspect 111:1228-1234 (2003). doi: 10.1289/ehp.5861 available via http://dx.doi.org/[Online 1 April 2003]

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Demolition of aging and derelict housing is one component of redevelopment and revitalization efforts under way in America's inner cities. During this decade, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that 1.8 million older housing units will be demolished nationwide (President's Task Force 2000). Demolition can eliminate housing with high amounts of lead in paint and dust and create open spaces for the development of new housing free of lead paint and for other community projects. Our earlier work showed that new housing clusters built on past demolition sites in older urban areas after the 1978 federal ban on lead in residential paint were associated with low levels of lead in house dust and children's blood (U.S. EPA 1997a).

These benefits notwithstanding, it is important to understand the risks associated with the demolition of housing containing lead in paint and dust, particularly in older urban neighborhoods where children are already at high risk of lead poisoning [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2000]. Because older housing is likely to contain lead in paint and dust (Jacobs et al. 2002), demolition of older housing represents a potentially large source of dispersed lead in urban environments. We observed the dispersion of large amounts of visible dust into the air, streets, and sidewalks when blocks of older (pre1950) row houses were demolished in low-income minority neighborhoods of Baltimore, Maryland. Few data are available on changes in ambient and residential lead levels associated with the demolition of older houses. One small study found that demolition was associated with increased dust lead loadings in neighboring houses, particularly when demolition was performed without wetting (Diorio 1999). …

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