Lead Dust and Housing Demolition

Project Funder: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Project Partners: The University of Illinois at Chicago and the Metropolitan Tenants Organization

Project Contact: David E. Jacobs, djacobs@nchh.org, 443.539.4157

Project Description

The study examined lead particulate dust-fall deposition generated by housing demolition in Chicago and Baltimore. The Chicago site consisted of 101 scattered-site single-family housing units where minimal or nonexistent dust suppression methods were primarily used. The Baltimore site consisted of approximately 500 multifamily rowhomes in a defined geographic area where use of barriers, water spraying, containment, deconstruction, and other extensive dust suppression methods were used. Both cities included houses likely to have significant amounts of lead-based paint. Lead dust fall at both sites was measured by elevated containers with a defined surface area filled with one liter of de-ionized water and opened to the atmosphere for a measured period of time. Laboratory analysis was performed by Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy. In Baltimore, airborne lead particulate levels were all below reporting detection limits, but lead dust fall levels were typically above detection reporting limits. Baseline lead dust fall levels in both cities were collected in areas away from the active demolition sites. The results from the two cities show that lead dust fall is significantly lower when the extensive dust suppression methods specified in Baltimore are used. The project also measured other contaminants in dust, including silica, asbestos, particle size distributions, and other metals. The results have important implications for how lead-contaminated dust generated from housing demolition can be assessed and controlled to protect the public health.


Jacobs, D. E., Cali, S., Welch, A., Catalin, B., Dixon, S. L., Evens, A., Mucha, A. P., Vahl, N., Erdal, S., & Bartlett, J. (2013, November-December). Lead and other heavy metals in dust fall from single-family housing demolitionPublic Health Reports, 128(6), 454-462. DOI: 10.1177/003335491312800605.

Mucha, A. P., Stites, N., Evens, A., MacRoy, P. M, Persky, V. W, & Jacobs, D. E. (2009, February). Lead dustfall from demolition of scattered site family housing: Developing a sampling methodologyEnvironmental Research, 109(2), 143-148. DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2008.10.010

East Baltimore Development Inc. (2010, October). Operations protocol for demolition and site preparation activities.


Latest page update: April 2, 2021.