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Indoor Health Hazards: Case Study on Lead-Based Paint

July 18, 2017
Hazard Data, Home Building
By: Vivian Nguyen

This post is about the application of indoor health hazard data to a series of case studies on four different indoor health risks. The first case study is on the risks related to lead-based paint.

An Introduction to Geospatial Technology and Risk Assessment

In recent years, geographical research and geospatial technology have made significant contributions to quantifying environmental change, understanding health hazards and risk assessment. For example, there are ample opportunities in utilizing ownership information to identify residential renovation and insurance opportunities as well as to visualize and quantify the health burden placed on local public health agencies and municipalities.

Although tax roll and ownership data are publicly available, acquiring and normalizing it isn´t easy. As a result of this, academic organizations and the private sector have dedicated ample resources and time in accumulating these publicly available data types.

Understanding Indoor Health Hazards (IHHs)

Americans spend as much as 87% of their time indoors. Because of this, various studies have been done to better understand indoor health hazard data. Some structural characteristics readily available through tax roll information, such as the year in which the structure was built, may be correlated with the presence of certain indoor health risks.

This series of case studies discusses four health risks using indoor health hazard data. Each study maps potentially affected single family homes and multi-family dwellings within a region, by using geospatial technology.

The following indoor health risks will be covered over the coming weeks:

Next Posts:

Indoor Health Hazard Data Case Study on Lead-Based Paint

Lead is a naturally occurring heavy metal. If ingested, it causes permanent neurological damage and can cause death. Its effects are most serious in children, thus there are no “safe levels” of lead. Most recently, lead has been detected in over 76,000 children (< 5 years of age) in 2014 in the United States. Before it was regulated, lead was extensively used in gasoline, water pipes, and paint and continues to be used in car batteries as well as other industrial and military products.

Lead-Based Paint in Homes

Congress banned the use of lead-based paint in 1971 and the regulations took effect in 1978. This means the likelihood of lead-based paint increases with structural age. Paint in homes built between 1940-1956 has a 69% chance of containing lead and this increases to 87% chance if the home was built before 1940. Lead poisoning continues to be a very real danger especially among the economically disadvantaged: low-income households seldom have the financial resources for renovations and tend to rent older homes where corrective action may not be provided by the landlord.

Lead based paint indoor health hazard data in Toledo, Ohio
figure 1: Lead-based paint indoor health hazard data in Toledo, Ohio
Lead based paint indoor health hazard data in Salt Lake City, Utah
figure 2: Lead-based paint indoor health hazard data in Salt Lake City, Utah

Using Spatial Technology to Visualize Potential Indoor Health Risks

Geospatial technology can be used to visualize potential indoor health risks, for example by performing spatial queries, with the aim to visualize potential affected single family homes that meet certain search criteria. In this case, the search criteria are houses built between 1900 to 1940, which have a relatively higher probability of lead containment than newer ones. The search areas were the City of Toledo, Ohio and Salt Lake City, Utah and yielded 34,832 single family homes met the criteria in Toledo, OH (Figure 1) while 12,400 single family homes met the same criteria in Salt Lake City, Utah (Figure 2). This is not to say every single household contains lead paint but the likelihood is high.

Spatial Query Method

The spatial query task was done by using LandVision™, a powerful map-based research, analysis, and collaboration tool that enables users to find and qualify land and property opportunities and efficiently manage real estate related projects. LandVision is available as a Software-as-a-Service platform from Digital Map Products.

Author Bio

Customer success, map maker, GIS, location technology


Jose A. Robles is Senior Customer Success Analyst at Digital Map Products. First and foremost, he is a customer advocate keen on finding holistic and scalable solutions. A curious and habitual observer, his fields of study include cultural anthropology, geography, disease ecology, and the application of geospatial technologies, such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS). He is passionate about environmental health topics and intrigued by urban landscapes. Contact Jose at or via LinkedIn.

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