Environment and Energy, Features, Health and Safety, Municipal Government, New York

NYC Failure to Protect Children from Lead Exposure

September 27, 2019

By Stephanie West

New York, NY – New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer has released a report  outlining the City’s systemic failure to protect children from toxic lead. NYC agencies consistently  missed opportunities to prevent lead exposure in children. 

From 2013 through late 2018, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), never performed a lead inspection in 9,671 buildings where 11,972 children tested positive for lead exposure. The City’s lead inspection regime was hit or miss and left as many as 63 percent of all buildings under HPD’s jurisdiction with documented cases of child lead exposure entirely uninspected by HPD lead inspectors.
As many as 2,749 children who lived in the uninspected buildings tested positive for lead exposure. The City’s own Local Law 1 set a goal of eliminating and preventing child lead poisoning but the Big Apple had not developed an effective program to achieve it goals.
“Lead is poison – and no amount of it in a child’s blood is acceptable – period. Yet our investigation reveals how bureaucratic breakdowns and a lethargic approach to enforcement allowed children to fall through cracks and become exposed to toxic lead. As a City, we are defined by how we treat our children, but the City is failing in its responsibility to use all available means to eliminate childhood lead poisoning across the city. There has to be top-to-bottom change,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “Any lead poisoning of our children must be treated as a five alarm fire, but the City isn’t utilizing basic tools at its disposal to extinguish the fires – even in the most problematic buildings it knows about. Nearly 3,000 children tested with elevated blood lead levels after the City was aware of a problem in their buildings. That is an outrage. The City needs to fully commit to rooting out lead exposure because half measures and haphazard strategies are failing. Fifteen years ago New York City set a goal to eliminate childhood lead poisoning once and for all – and for the health and safety of every single child – we must recommit to fulfilling that promise.”

In response to the investigation’s disturbing findings, the Comptroller called for an across-the-board overhaul of lead exposure mitigation and enforcement, calling on the City to: Proactively inspect all 9,671 buildings that the investigation found to be associated with one or more instances of childhood lead exposure and went uninspected, and do more going forward to coordinate agency responses to identify and remedy lead paint hotspots before more children are put at risk.

September 27, 2019

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