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Making the city lead-safe

Making the city lead-safe

The City of Philadelphia is working to reduce the number of children with elevated lead levels, and to help families whose homes contain lead paint and lead pipes. Laws, regulations, and an advisory group protect families and children from the harmful effects of lead. When property owners refuse to make necessary repairs to protect children from lead, they can end up in Lead Court. 

Lead testing

Most three-year-olds in Philadelphia have been tested for elevated lead at least once. Between 2011 and 2021, 30-40% of children had been tested by one year of age. Another 30-40% were tested between one and two, and an additional 8-12% were tested between two and three.

In Philadelphia today, elevated blood lead levels among children have become less common. In 2011, about 18% of screened three-year-olds ever had an elevated blood lead test (5 ug/dL or higher). In 2021, this declined to about 6%. About 4% of three-year-olds in 2011 ever had an elevated blood lead test of 10 ug/dL or higher compared to about 2% in 2021.

Read the latest report on lead testing in Philadelphia.

Lead Advisory Group

In 2017, Mayor Jim Kenney released the final report and recommendations from the Philadelphia Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Advisory Group. This report supplements the commitments the City made to reduce lead poisoning in its “Lead-Free Kids: Preventing Lead Poisoning in Philadelphia” report, released in December 2016.

Read the Lead Advisory Group’s findings.

Laws and regulations

The City of Philadelphia has laws and regulations to protect residents from unsafe living conditions. These laws and regulations ensure that housing is safe and that landlords are accountable.


  • Landlords are required to test and certify rental properties as lead-safe or lead-free, regardless of a child’s age, in order to:
    • Execute a new or renewed lease or
    • Receive or renew a rental license.

Learn more about this regulation.

  • The School District of Philadelphia conducts water testing at every school on a five year cycle. This helps to guarantee that students have access to safe drinking water at school. All water testing results are posted online for public view.
  • The School District of Philadelphia must keep its buildings safe from environmental hazards, including asbestos, mold, and lead paint.
  • All schools and licensed day care facilities caring for 13 or more children are required to test all potable water outlets for lead and submit results to the Department of Public Health.
  • The City of Philadelphia has other lead paint laws and regulations to protect residents from unsafe living conditions.  The City provides resources to landlords to help them keep their properties lead free or lead safe.

EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule

Philadelphia successfully passed the most recent round of water quality testing for lead at customers’ taps. In addition to regular tests done every year at home taps upon request, we also comply with federal drinking water regulations, defined in the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule. This rule requires us to sample water from taps in homes that have lead service lines every three years. 90 percent of the sampled homes must have lead levels under the action level of 15 ppb.

Since June 1991, the PWD has tested for lead levels in accordance with the federal Lead and Copper Rule.

Requirements for construction and demolition

In 2016, the City of Philadelphia’s Air Pollution Control Board created requirements designed to limit the public’s exposure to dust. Property owners and operators of construction or demolition projects must:

  • Notify people who live near pending construction or demolition projects at least 10 days before starting work.
  • Use basic dust control techniques to reduce and limit the creation of lead dust.

Lead Court

If a landlord or homeowner does not repair the lead hazards in their property, they may be referred to Lead Court.

When a child’s blood lead level tests at 3.5 or above, the child’s health care provider notifies the Lead and Healthy Homes Program (LHHP). LHHP will visit the property where the child lives and conduct a comprehensive inspection for lead hazards. The inspection report details all of the surfaces in the property that must be repaired.

LHHP will give the landlord or homeowner an order to remediate the lead hazards within 30 days. At this time, the property owner may be eligible for funding to help remove the lead hazards. LHHP will work with the property owner to see if they qualify for funding and/or help to coordinate the lead repair.

LHHP will re-inspect the property after 30 days. If the property owner has failed to make or schedule the repairs, or failed to follow proper remediation guidelines, LHHP will inform the City’s Law Department. The Law Department will then contact the property owner with a date to appear in Lead Court.

Before the court date, the property owner has the opportunity to make or schedule the repairs. If the work is completed or in progress by the court date, the Law Department can either discontinue the court referral or issue a continuance. If the property owner does not make the repairs, the judge may impose fines ranging from $2,000 to $250,000.