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Overview

What is lead poisoning?

Lead is a toxic metal that can harm the body, especially in young children and infants. Common sources of lead exposure include lead-based paint, contaminated soil, and certain consumer products. Symptoms of lead poisoning can include abdominal pain, headaches, and developmental delays. It is important to take steps to prevent lead exposure, especially in young children, as it can cause long-term health problems.

Lead paint on an old window frame.
Photo credit:US EPA

Children Lead Testing Rates and Results

New Castle County

Data are current as of 2015

Why do we test for lead poisoning?

Protecting children from exposure to lead is important to lifelong good health. No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to negatively affect a child's intelligence, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement. A blood lead test is the best way to determine if a child has lead poisoning. A child with lead poisoning may not have visible signs or symptoms. Many children who have lead poisoning look and act healthy. Parents can talk to their child's healthcare provider about getting a blood lead test if their child may have been exposed to lead.

Parents should talk to their child's healthcare provider about whether their child needs to be tested for lead. The child's healthcare provider may ask questions to see if the child is at risk for lead poisoning. The best way to know if a child has been exposed to lead is to have their blood tested.

Young child in front of door with chipping paint
Photo credit:US EPA
New Castle County

Children Tested (Percentage)

2011 - 2015

11.6%
of children under 6
Decreased 38.3% from 2010 to 2015
New Castle County

Children Tested (Count)

2011 - 2015

22,412
people
Decreased 41% from 2010 to 2015

Percent of Children Tested by Age


New Castle County

Lead Poisoning Risk Factors

New Castle County

Data are current as of 2021

Across the United States, there are a variety of childhood lead exposure sources and risk factors.

Those who live in housing built before 1978 are at the greatest risk of lead exposure. Houses built before 1978, when the use of lead in paint was banned, and houses in low-income areas, many of which have homes built before 1978, are more likely to contain lead-based paint and have pipes, faucets, and plumbing fixtures containing lead. Also, African Americans are at a higher risk of lead exposure due to systemic racism leading to poor housing stock.

Children less than six years old are at a higher risk of lead exposure. This is because their bodies are rapidly developing and more susceptible to taking in lead if exposed. Young children also tend to put their hands or other objects into their mouths. This is why the most common source of lead exposure in young children is lead dust that they swallow after placing their lead-contaminated hands or other objects in their mouths.

Young happy girl with purple hair pretending to be a fairy or wizard
Photo credit:Xavi Cabrera

Housing


These data explore risk factors associated with increased lead exposure related to housing such as housing age, property value, and renter occupied rates. The prevalence of lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards increases with the age of the housing; nationwide, more than 93 percent of all homes with lead-based paint were built before 1978, and 85.4 percent of homes with LBP were built before 1940.

Data from the Delaware Division of Public Health show that 60-65% of children with elevated blood lead levels reside in renter-occupied homes. 57% of rental homes in Delaware were built before 1979, and 17% before 1950. Delaware's rental housing stock is oldest in New Castle County, where 68% of rental homes were built before 1978 and 20% before 1950.

Doorway in building where paint on walls is pealing
Photo credit:Quino Al (Unsplash)
New Castle County

Percent of housing units built prior to 1970

2021

45.7%
of housing units
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Decreased 7.9% from 2010 to 2021
New Castle County

Percent Renters

2021

32.4%
of residents
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Increased 4.9% from 2015 to 2021

Healthcare Access and Resources


These data explore risk factors associated with increased lead exposure related to access to resources such as income, health insurance enrollment, and poverty rate. Houses in low-income areas, many of which have homes built before 1978, are more likely to contain lead-based paint and have pipes, faucets, and plumbing fixtures containing lead.

Baby or toddler receiving an immunization from a doctor while being held by parent
Photo credit:CDC (Unsplash)
Table Key
Indicator

New Castle County

% Change
Trendline
State

Health Insurance Coverage

percentage of residents

94.8%

Increased 2.8%(2015 - 2021)

94.2%

Median Household Income

amount in dollars

$78,428

Increased 25.5%(2010 - 2021)

$72,724

Child Poverty Rate

percentage of children

14.4%

Decreased 6.5%(2015 - 2021)

17.3%

Assessing Lead Testing Coverage and Age of Housing Stock

New Castle County

Housing built before 1978 carries an elevated risk for lead exposure, and housing built before 1950 has the highest risk of lead exposure. Due to a ban on lead-based paint in 1978, housing built after this year carries minimal risk. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimated that 89% of homes built before 1978 had lead-based paint, accounting for the majority of the 34.6 million American homes that have lead paint in them as of 2018-2019. A study of young children ages 6 months to 2 years found that interior renovation of older homes — which often includes painting, sanding, scraping or other activities that might release lead dust into the air — further increased risk of lead poisoning. Over 3 million homes with children younger than age 6 had one or more lead-based paint hazards in 2021, 2.1 million of which were low income households. Investing in lead paint hazard control for communities at high risk could provide a return of $17-$221 in societal and health costs for each $1 spent.

In this map, we explore the relationship between the presence of older housing stock with testing rates within the community.

All values for percent of children tested are 5-year averages.

Paint pealing off of a break wall
Photo credit:S J (Unsplash)

Assessing Housing Stock Age in Vulnerable Communities


New Castle County

Assessing Lead Testing Coverage in Vulnerable Communities

New Castle County

Most recent update: 2/27/2023

Combining information about a community's general vulnerability to the harms of disasters — like disease outbreaks and natural events — with current lead testing coverage (% of population under 6 years old tested) can help support and prioritize testing efforts.

This map provides such an assessment, depicting CDC social vulnerability data with local testing coverage — dark blue regions indicate low testing for lead in more vulnerable communities; lighter shades of blue indicate more widely tested populations.

All values for percent of children tested are 5-year averages.

Child receiving vaccination or blood test
Photo credit:CDC

Assessing Lead Testing Coverage in Vulnerable Communities


New Castle County

0.00More Vulnerable
SocialVulnerabilityScoreon a scale of 0 to 1
1.00Less Vulnerable
Less vulnerable, More testingMore vulnerable, Less Testing
0.0%Lower testing rates
45.7%Higher testing rates
Children Testedpercentage of children under 6

Additional Information

Lead in New Castle County

Resources


Delaware Childhood Lead Poisoning Advisory Committee

The Delaware Childhood Lead Poisoning Advisory Committee has produced an annual report with recommendations to strengthen implementation of the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act.

American Healthy Homes Survey

HUD, in cooperation with the EPA, surveyed homes in the U.S. to evaluate the presence of lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards (such as lead-contaminated dust or soil).

CDC Lead Poisoning Prevention Program

CDC’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program is dedicated to reducing childhood lead poisoning as a public health problem through strengthening blood lead testing, reporting, and surveillance, linking exposed children to recommended services, and targeted population-based interventions.

Lead Abatement Information for Delaware contractors

Delaware law requires contractors that disturb painted surfaces in homes, child care facilities and schools built before 1978 to be certified and follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.

Data Sources


Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Surveillance System (HHLPSS)

Citation: Centers for Disease Control and Delaware Department of Health and Social Services. Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Surveillance System. 2011-2020. https://myhealthycommunity.dhss.delaware.gov/

Privacy


In releasing this information, Delaware aims to provide information that can be helpful to local communities as they work to improve public health. However, the protection of the confidentiality of our citizens is of paramount importance. To that end, counts of less than 11 are not presented. An outside expert has reviewed the platform to ensure it complies with the HIPAA privacy rule (45 CFR 164.§514(b)).