As one of the most vocal champions for stronger lead poisoning policies, Harlem-based WE ACT for Environmental Justice applauds Mayor de Blasio, Speaker Johnson and the New York City Department of Health’s aggressive new initiative to reduce childhood lead exposure. The City’s Department of Health will now conduct environmental investigations for all children under 18 years old with a blood lead level of 5 micrograms per deciliter.
However, the announcement of this new initiative coincides with the release of a report by the City’s Department of Health acknowledging that 820 children younger than 6 years old had elevated levels of lead – between 5 to 9 micrograms per deciliter – in their blood between 2012 and 2016. All of the children lived in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) public housing. And these are levels at which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that authorities intervene with testing and other measures.
“We have long been vocal advocates for more stringent lead poisoning policies in NYCHA buildings,” said Peggy Shepard, Co-Founder and Executive Director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “And while we are pleased that the City has finally heeded the call to protect New York’s children from this ongoing and unnecessary health hazard, it is disappointing that 820 children had to have their lives placed in jeopardy before action was taken.”
WE ACT was instrumental in helping pass Local Law 1 in 2004, which was designed to make the City lead-free by 2010. The law requires landlords to remove all lead from an apartment after it has been vacated. But a lack of enforcement has continued to put the lives of countless children across the city in jeopardy.
“It is unfortunate that the City and its Department of Health have opted to focus on legislation aimed at monitoring and treating lead poisoning when they simply could enforce the existing law and prevent the contamination from happening in the first place,” added Shepard.
Visit us at weact.org.