A stricter definition of an elevated blood lead level in young children issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) aims to speed care for children living in federally assisted housing. The new rule lowers the HUD threshold of lead in a child’s blood to match that of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—from 20 µg/dL to 5 µg/dL. CDC in 2012 changed from identifying children as having a blood lead “level of concern” for blood lead levels ≥10 µg/dL to using the 5 µg/dL reference level.

Using this new elevated blood lead level standard for HUD allows for a faster response when children are exposed to lead-based paint hazards in their HUD-assisted homes, according to the agency. Under the new rule, when a child in HUD-assisted housing has an elevated blood level, the housing provider will have to test the home and other potential sources of the child’s lead exposure within 15 days and ensure that hazards from lead-based paint, dust, or soil are controlled within 30 days. The housing provider must also report the case to HUD.

The rule covers approximately 3 million HUD-assisted housing units built before 1978, the year lead-based paint was banned for residential use. Of these homes, about 500,000 are estimated to have children younger than age 6 residing in them.