Risk factors for childhood lead exposure: facts & figures

Older housing is more likely to contain lead-based paint

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that more than 80% of all homes built in the U.S. before 1978 contain lead-based paint. Lead-based paint in homes built before 1950 poses greater risk for children because the paint may contain higher concentrations of lead. Average age of housing identifies communities that may be at increased risk of exposing children to lead because of older housing.

Lead-based paint may deteriorate as visible paint chips but is more commonly found as fine dust, which looks like ordinary house dust. Lead-painted windows are a special problem because raising and lowering the window creates lead-based paint dust that settles on floors and window wells, even when new paint is put over the old. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), remodeling old homes can create large quantities of lead dust that may be accidentally inhaled (breathed) or ingested (eaten), especially by children.

Children living in older housing have a greater risk of lead exposure

These maps shows the prevalence of older housing in Minnesota. Older housing, especially housing built before 1950, is a risk factor for childhood lead exposure due to the presence of lead-based paint. Lead-based paint was phased out of residential use in 1950 and eventually banned in 1978 in the U.S.

The majority of counties in southwestern Minnesota have higher percentages of pre-1950 housing than other parts of the state. Areas of Hennepin, Ramsey, and St. Louis Counties are known to have a high proportion of old homes, among others. Children living in older homes are at higher risk for lead exposure and are targeted for screening according to MDH guidelines. In Minnesota, 23% of housing was built prior to 1950, while about 59% was built prior to 1980.

Percent of older housing in Minnesota

Source: 2014 American Community Survey 5-year estimates. These housing age maps and the accompanying data table are available for download.
Source: 2014 American Community Survey 5-year estimates. These housing age maps and the accompanying data table are available for download.
Region Before 1950 Before 1980
Minnesota 22.2% 58.0%
Aitkin County 16.6% 52.5%
Anoka County 5.3% 43.9%
Becker County 19.4% 57.9%
Beltrami County 15.5% 49.8%
Benton County 17.9% 49.6%
Big Stone County 39.8% 75.9%
Blue Earth County 27.7% 61.6%
Brown County 39.6% 74.3%
Carlton County 23.8% 59.8%
Carver County 10.5% 31.0%
Cass County 14.1% 47.9%
Chippewa County 36.3% 78.0%
Chisago County 12.7% 37.5%
Clay County 16.4% 60.6%
Clearwater County 25.1% 60.1%
Cook County 16.0% 46.8%
Cottonwood County 37.2% 84.1%
Crow Wing County 16.5% 49.2%
Dakota County 6.1% 39.3%
Dodge County 26.3% 56.9%
Douglas County 20.1% 51.6%
Faribault County 47.3% 85.8%
Fillmore County 43.7% 69.1%
Freeborn County 36.9% 81.0%
Goodhue County 28.3% 60.9%
Grant County 41.1% 73.5%
Hennepin County 25.8% 66.4%
Houston County 32.9% 67.5%
Hubbard County 15.0% 48.3%
Isanti County 14.1% 43.4%
Itasca County 18.2% 58.2%
Jackson County 47.5% 83.7%
Kanabec County 20.0% 53.0%
Kandiyohi County 22.4% 60.3%
Kittson County 36.1% 75.2%
Koochiching County 26.1% 67.8%
Lac qui Parle County 52.6% 82.4%
Lake County 27.0% 72.4%
Lake of the Woods County 16.2% 48.5%
Le Sueur County 27.9% 62.5%
Lincoln County 45.1% 81.6%
Lyon County 30.3% 69.0%
Mahnomen County 25.2% 62.1%
Marshall County 32.8% 74.0%
Martin County 40.0% 79.8%
McLeod County 23.6% 57.3%
Meeker County 26.9% 62.1%
Mille Lacs County 19.6% 49.1%
Morrison County 26.3% 58.1%
Mower County 37.2% 78.6%
Murray County 40.6% 73.4%
Nicollet County 23.0% 58.5%
Nobles County 33.4% 77.5%
Norman County 41.0% 77.3%
Olmsted County 13.4% 48.7%
Otter Tail County 24.4% 59.0%
Pennington County 30.4% 69.9%
Pine County 19.3% 49.4%
Pipestone County 42.0% 77.4%
Polk County 29.3% 69.0%
Pope County 32.0% 67.7%
Ramsey County 33.2% 73.6%
Red Lake County 35.0% 69.8%
Redwood County 42.2% 79.1%
Renville County 41.3% 78.7%
Rice County 25.4% 56.0%
Rock County 38.4% 78.6%
Roseau County 19.0% 52.1%
Saint Louis County 36.6% 74.4%
Scott County 6.4% 27.2%
Sherburne County 6.5% 30.5%
Sibley County 43.1% 72.1%
Stearns County 16.0% 47.9%
Steele County 23.8% 62.2%
Stevens County 32.4% 70.8%
Swift County 42.1% 79.5%
Todd County 29.5% 66.1%
Traverse County 45.2% 80.1%
Wabasha County 30.3% 59.9%
Wadena County 26.5% 64.2%
Waseca County 32.2% 70.9%
Washington County 8.9% 37.5%
Watonwan County 47.1% 81.5%
Wilkin County 32.7% 71.6%
Winona County 38.1% 69.8%
Wright County 11.4% 36.4%
Yellow Medicine County 46.0% 85.2%
Source: 2014 American Community Survey 5-year estimates. These housing age maps and the accompanying data table are available for download.

Children in poverty have a greater risk for lead exposure

According to the CDC, young children living in poverty or who reside in older housing have a higher risk of lead exposure. The proportion of children living in poverty in Minnesota has consistently remained lower than the national average.

The map below shows the geographic distribution of children living in poverty in Minnesota. Most recently, about 17% of Minnesota children under 5 years of age live in poverty. Children living in most of the counties in Northern Minnesota are more likely to live in poverty than the state as a whole, and suburban counties generally have a lower percentage of children living in poverty. Ramsey County and areas of Hennepin County have a higher percentage of children living in poverty compared to the Minnesota average. Children in poverty are at higher risk for lead exposure and are targeted for screening according to MDH guidelines. 

Childhood poverty in Minnesota

Children under 5 years of age below 100% poverty threshold. Source: 2014 American Community Survey 5-year estimates. This poverty map and the accompanying data table are available for download.
Region Children in Poverty
Minnesota 17.2%
Aitkin County 18.0%
Anoka County 11.9%
Becker County 26.2%
Beltrami County 30.9%
Benton County 25.6%
Big Stone County 28.5%
Blue Earth County 18.5%
Brown County 10.6%
Carlton County 19.9%
Carver County 3.8%
Cass County 32.3%
Chippewa County 22.4%
Chisago County 7.7%
Clay County 20.3%
Clearwater County 28.0%
Cook County 7.2%
Cottonwood County 34.0%
Crow Wing County 16.8%
Dakota County 12.4%
Dodge County 10.6%
Douglas County 12.6%
Faribault County 23.7%
Fillmore County 18.5%
Freeborn County 19.1%
Goodhue County 14.2%
Grant County 19.9%
Hennepin County 18.6%
Houston County 17.8%
Hubbard County 21.3%
Isanti County 9.0%
Itasca County 24.8%
Jackson County 13.0%
Kanabec County 21.7%
Kandiyohi County 25.5%
Kittson County 20.0%
Koochiching County 20.2%
Lac qui Parle County 11.0%
Lake County 26.5%
Lake of the Woods County 1.5%
Le Sueur County 11.4%
Lincoln County 9.4%
Lyon County 24.5%
McLeod County 15.0%
Mahnomen County 44.1%
Marshall County 8.8%
Martin County 21.3%
Meeker County 12.1%
Mille Lacs County 21.7%
Morrison County 12.8%
Mower County 22.0%
Murray County 14.9%
Nicollet County 11.7%
Nobles County 31.3%
Norman County 24.9%
Olmsted County 10.9%
Otter Tail County 18.0%
Pennington County 6.1%
Pine County 22.9%
Pipestone County 21.2%
Polk County 20.6%
Pope County 13.9%
Ramsey County 26.0%
Red Lake County 19.9%
Redwood County 18.1%
Renville County 27.5%
Rice County 25.5%
Rock County 28.4%
Roseau County 18.0%
St. Louis County 26.0%
Scott County 6.4%
Sherburne County 10.8%
Sibley County 26.1%
Stearns County 15.5%
Steele County 20.9%
Stevens County 13.6%
Swift County 12.1%
Todd County 32.9%
Traverse County 2.9%
Wabasha County 10.2%
Wadena County 25.8%
Waseca County 18.3%
Washington County 9.5%
Watonwan County 20.3%
Wilkin County 12.4%
Winona County 15.8%
Wright County 9.6%
Yellow Medicine County 16.3%
Children under 5 years of age below 100% poverty threshold. Source: 2014 American Community Survey 5-year estimates. This poverty map and the accompanying data table are available for download.

To see other data on childhood lead exposure, see: