July 2, 2008 – Childhood lead poisoning declined by 15% last year, the Health Department reported today, reaching the lowest rate ever recorded in New York City. The 2007 caseload – 1,970 poisonings among children between 6 months and 6 years of age – marks a 90% decline since 1995, when nearly 20,000 children were identified with lead poisoning. Lead poisoning is defined as a blood sample containing 10 or more micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (ug/dL). Lead poisoning can cause learning and behavior problems, even at low levels.
“Lead paint is the primary cause of lead poisoning,” said Nancy Clark, Assistant Commissioner for Environmental Disease Prevention, “And young children are most at risk. To protect your children, look out for peeling lead paint – particularly on doors and windows – and tell your landlord to safely repair any damaged paint. Make sure your child is tested for lead poisoning at ages 1 and 2.”
In 2007, 621 children under 18, including 538 children younger than age 6, were identified with blood lead levels of at least 15 ug/dL – a level that triggers an environmental investigation in the home and case coordination services. For these families, the Health Department assesses lead paint hazards and other lead sources, orders landlords to repairs hazards safely, and works with families and healthcare providers to educate them on ways to reduce lead exposure. These cases have fallen 22% since 2006, when 800 children under 18 were diagnosed.
The 2007 findings also show that testing for lead poisoning increased by about 3% among 1- and 2-year-olds since 2006. The Health Department runs several programs to educate families and healthcare providers about lead poisoning, and to increase testing in high-risk neighborhoods.
Childhood lead poisoning occurs throughout New York City but is highest in Brooklyn. While only 34% of New York City children age 6 months to less than 6 years live in Brooklyn, 43% of children newly identified with lead poisoning last year were Brooklyn residents. Neighborhoods with the greatest number of cases include: Borough Park, East Flatbush-Flatbush, Bedford Stuyvesant-Crown Heights, Williamsburg-Bushwick, Greenpoint and East New York.
Of the remaining New York City children with lead poisoning, 22% live in Queens, mostly in West Queens and Southwest Queens; 19% live in the Bronx, mostly in Crotona-Tremont, Pelham-Throgs Neck, Fordham-Bronx Park and High Bridge-Morrisania; 13% live in Manhattan, mostly in Washington Heights-Inwood, Central Harlem-Morningside Heights and Upper West Side; and 4% live in Staten Island, mostly in Stapleton-St. George and Port Richmond.
Health Department Prevention Efforts
The Health Department focuses its prevention efforts in lower income neighborhoods with older, poorly maintained housing where children are most at risk of lead poisoning. The Department works with organizations in these communities to educate people about how to prevent lead poisoning. The Health Department also assesses lead paint hazards in the homes of newborn babies and orders landlords to fix lead paint hazards before lead poisoning occurs. Families receive these services through the Newborn Home Visiting program in North and Central Brooklyn, the South Bronx, and East and Central Harlem.
“Prevention of childhood lead poisoning requires the involvement of parents, landlords, doctors and other community members,” Clark said. “Landlords must comply with the law and correct lead hazards. Parents should report peeling paint to their landlords, who are responsible for fixing these conditions. If landlords fail to make safe repairs, parents should call 311.”
Parents/Caregivers Can Protect Their Children from Lead Poisoning
- Report peeling paint to your landlord. In New York City, landlords are required to fix peeling paint in homes where young children live. If your landlord does not respond, call 311.
- Remind your doctor to test your child for lead poisoning at ages 1 and 2. Ask the doctor about testing older children who may be at risk for lead exposure.
- Wash floors, windowsills, hands, toys and pacifiers often.
- Don’t use imported foods, spices, medicines, clay pots, dishes, cosmetics or toys known to contain lead.
- Use only cold (not hot) tap water for drinking and cooking and for making baby formula. Run the water for a few minutes before using it.
For more information on preventing childhood lead poisoning, call 311. You can read the Health Bulletin titled Protect Your Child From Lead Poisoning by visiting the Health Department’s website www.nyc.gov/health.