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HUD lowers threshold for action on lead poisoning in children

Federal authorities took action Friday to ensure a faster response when children in federally subsidized housing are exposed to lead, which can cause learning disabilities and behavior problems and has been a particular menace in Baltimore.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development lowered the threshold for lead in a child's blood to match guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When a child younger than 6 has a level of 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, landlords must take action that includes testing for potential sources in paint, dust or soil and controlling the lead.

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The previous level in the subsidized housing was 20 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood.

HUD expect the rule will cover about 3 million subsidized housing units built before 1978, the year lead-based paint was banned for residential use. An estimated 500,000 of the units are home to children under age 6.

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Longtime local advocate Ruth Ann Norton had pushed for the change for years and said it speaks to the growing understanding that there "is no safe level of lead."

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