Indiana University researchers developing predictive tool for lead exposure

April 6, 2022

Indiana University researchers are developing a tool to predict residential households at risk of lead exposure, and they are asking communities in Indiana and North Carolina to participate by collecting and shipping water, dust and soil samples for lab analysis.

“Lead causes irreversible health effects, so there is no safe level of lead exposure for children or adults. Our vision is to create a 21st-century approach that prevents lead exposure before it ever happens by predicting houses where lead is most likely to be a problem,” Jacqueline MacDonald Gibson, professor, and chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, said in a press release.

State and local agencies typically rely on the detection of lead in children’s blood tests or the age of a home to determine which households need interventions to address environmental lead hazards.

“Whether you are pregnant or have young children at home, lead exposure is a serious concern. This study will help families in our state understand the level of lead risk in their home and get rid of it before exposure occurs. And that's a win for all North Carolina kids,” Vikki Crouse, policy analyst and project director at NC Child, said in the press release.

Lead exposure at any level can cause intellectual disabilities and behavioral disorders in children, as well as cardiovascular issues in adults.

Selected residents in Allen, Delaware, Marion, St. Joseph and Vanderburgh counties in Indiana and Guilford County in North Carolina will receive postcards inviting them to participate in the study. Participants will receive test kits and simple instructions in the mail to collect and ship their samples. Each participant will receive personalized and confidential results, along with actionable recommendations on how to decrease lead exposure, if needed.

The study is led by MacDonald Gibson and co-principal investigators Emmanuel Obeng-Gyasi of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and Jennifer Hoponick Redmon and James Harrington of nonprofit research institute RTI International.

Partner organizations also involved with the study include the cities of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Greensboro, North Carolina, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, nonprofit advocacy organization NC Child and the NC Housing Finance Agency.

The study, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, will use machine-learning techniques and public data on residential lead exposure risks to create a website and mapping tool to predict lead exposure for Indiana and North Carolina households.

Indiana University researchers developing predictive tool for lead exposure