October 22, 2023
By: Jenny Veloz & Julie Kronick
This week, from October 22 to October 28, is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. In case you missed it, over the summer a package of five important lead poisoning prevention bills passed in the City Council. Collectively, these bills help the city get closer to eliminating childhood lead poisoning by enhancing prevention and enforcement of current lead laws. These bills continue long-standing work being done by a group of advocates, doctors, and lawyers that form the New York City Coalition to End Lead Poisoning (NYCCELP), of which CCC is a member.
New York City has some of the oldest housing stock in the country, much of which was constructed before 1960 and contains lead-based paint. In New York City, lead-based paint was banned in 1960. However, many buildings were built before this law was enacted and contain lead-based paint. Families living in these buildings, predominantly located in high-poverty communities, are at risk of serious health risks due to lead poisoning, especially young children. Lead-based paint and dust (most commonly caused from peeling, cracked or loose paint) is a leading contributor to childhood lead poisoning. Younger children are especially susceptible to lead poisoning because they explore their surroundings with their mouths. Lead poisoning can lead to serious developmental and neurological issues such as learning and behavior problems, slowed growth and development, and hearing and speech problems.
Childhood lead poisoning is more prevalent in high-poverty communities and communities of color, resulting in children of color being disproportionately harmed by lead poisoning. According to New York City’s Department of Health, 81% of children under the age of six newly identified with blood lead levels of 5 micrograms/deciliter (mcg/dL) or greater were Black, Latinx and Asian. Even though the federal government recently lowered the threshold for lead poisoning to 3.5 mcg/dL, there is no safe level of lead for children. Although New York City has seen a decrease in childhood lead poisoning, there is still work to be done to eliminate children’s exposure to lead.
NYCCELP was formed in the 1980s and was instrumental in creating and passing Local Law 1 of 2004, one of the most comprehensive lead poisoning prevention laws in the country, with the goal of ending childhood lead poisoning by 2010. Local Law 1 was influential in advancing the fight to end lead poisoning, reducing the number of children under 6 years old with blood lead levels of 5 mcg/dL or greater by 93% between 2005 and 2020, but more work is needed to fully protect children across the city. Additional data cited in a CityLimits piece states that from January 2018 to March 2023, lead paint violations increased, and 2,838 lead violations were issued in March 2023 alone. Now the Coalition convenes the Lead Roundtable with the purpose of strengthening enforcement of current lead laws. As a member of the Lead Roundtable, CCC advocated for and helped pass the aforementioned package of five lead bills focused on closing the loopholes in Local Law 1 and strengthening enforcement. We will continue to work in coalition with our partners in the Lead Roundtable towards ending childhood lead poisoning in New York City.
What can you do to get involved? At the end of this month NYCCELP will host a public webinar on Tuesday, October 31 from 12:30pm to 1:30pm that will go over current lead laws, lead poisoning data, existing health, safety, legal and advocacy resources for families dealing with lead issues and will preview the coalition’s coming 2024 Lead Agenda. This presentation will be followed by a Q&A with lead experts in various fields—CCC will be speaking at this event! Click here to register for this free, virtual webinar. Then, stay tuned for the official release of NYCCELP’s 2024 Lead Agenda: A Roadmap To Eliminating Lead Poisoning In New York City which in mid-November.