Exploring childhood lead exposure through GIS: A review of the recent literature


The use of GIS in environmental risk factor studies on childhood lead exposure became a focus of research activity in the late 1990s. This prompted the CDC to develop a guideline for the use of GIS in childhood lead poisoning studies in 2004 [1]. Even though the number of children with elevated blood lead levels (EBLLs) in the U.S. is decreasing, eliminating EBLLs by the year 2020 remains a goal of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [2]. The capacity to achieve this goal is conditional on the ability to develop strategies based on geographic areas [3]. Funding is another factor to achieve this goal especially when health departments have limited budgets [4]. Despite significant research on the risk factors affecting childhood lead poisoning (age of housing, urban/rural status, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, population density, renter/owner occupancy, housing value, nutritional status), there has not been any review article discussing the GIS-based studies. The purpose of this article is to review previous and current GIS research to understand which methods currently employed have been most effective in the screening strategies and examining spatial epidemiology of childhood lead exposure. Another goal is to identify additional methods in GIS-utilized lead poisoning research that also provide public health practitioners and policy makers the ability to better target lead poisoning preventive interventions. Our review covers the time period from 1991 to 2012 and includes GIS-based studies which were published until the adoption of the toxicity threshold of blood lead levels of 5 microgram per-deciliter (µg/dL) by the CDC [5].

Publication Title

Everyday Environmental Toxins: Childrens Exposure Risks