NYS Budget Protects Children from Lead

The 2020 enacted budget includes notable measures to protect our children from lead. New York acted to lower the definition of elevated pediatric blood lead from 10 μg/dL to 5 μg/dL, and lower the threshold for intervention from 15 µg/dl to 5 µg/dl of blood lead. CHNY and several JustGreen Partners played a major role in advocating for these improvements.

In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lowered the definition of elevated pediatric blood lead from 10 μg/dL to 5 μg/dL, based on strong scientific evidence that lead causes irreparable harm to children at very low levels. However, New York State did not follow suit until now. The state has the highest number of children with lead poisoning in the country, so this new lowered definition is a major victory for healthier children across our state.

The initiative puts in place new regulations that will impose penalties on the use of lead paint, giving authority to state and local housing enforcement agencies to charge fines for violations. It also requires residential rental property owners to maintain them in a condition that protects children from lead-based paint hazards.

The budget allocates an additional $9.4 million annually for the NYS Department of Health and county health departments to implement this initiative. These are necessary steps to find, fund, and fix the hazards, for primary prevention of childhood lead poisoning in New York State.

Facts and figures on lead in New York State:

  • In 2016, 17,745 New York children (5,610 from New York City alone) tested had an elevated blood lead level (5 μg/dL or more); 2,983 of them had blood lead levels of 10 μg/dL or more.

  • More of New York's children were found to have a blood lead level over 5 μg/dL than any other state in 2016.

  • 79% of New York housing was built before 1978 and New York has the highest percent of housing built before 1950 of any state.

  • Under the 2017 amendments to HUD’s Lead Safe Housing Rule, environmental investigations are already required when a child living in public housing has a blood lead level over 5 μg/dL.

  • Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island already require environmental investigations at 5 μg/dL, with several other states considering similar action.

Comprehensive primary prevention of childhood lead poisoning in New York State is long overdue. We applaud the Governor, Senate and Assembly for their leadership.

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