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Superfund Cleanups and Children's Lead Exposure

Paper Number: 2019-01

Document Date: 01/2019

Author(s): Heather Klemick, Henry Mason, and Karen Sullivan

Subject Area(s): Hazardous Waste, Toxic Substances, Children's Health, Epidemiology

JEL Classification: I14, I18, Q51, Q53

Keywords: Blood lead levels, child health, lead exposure, Superfund, contaminated land

Abstract: This study evaluates the effect of EPA’s Superfund cleanup program on children’s lead exposure. We linked two decades of blood lead level (BLL) measurements from children in six states with data on Superfund sites and other lead risk factors. We used quasi-experimental methods to identify the causal effect of proximity to Superfund cleanups on rates of elevated BLL. We estimated a difference-in-difference model comparing the change in elevated BLL of children closer to versus farther from lead-contaminated sites before, during, and after cleanup. We also estimated a triple difference model including children near hazardous sites with minimal to no lead contamination as a comparison group. We used spatial fixed effects and matching to minimize potential bias from unobserved differences between the treatment and comparison groups. Results indicate that Superfund cleanups lowered the risk of elevated BLL for children living within 2 kilometers of lead-contaminated sites 8 to 18 percent.

This paper is part of the Environmental Economics Working Paper Series.

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