October 1, 2012 – The New York City Health Department announced today that the number of young children diagnosed with lead poisoning dropped to a new all-time low. In 2011, the Health Department recorded 1,183 poisonings among children under six years old, a 17% decline from the 1,429 cases recorded in 2010. These findings were presented to the City Council today in the Department’s annual report. The number of childhood lead poisoning cases in New York City has declined 56% since 2005. The Health Department will continue to monitor cases and target prevention activities in high risk communities to eliminate exposure to lead hazards.
“While fewer children are suffering from lead poisoning in New York City, too many of our children are still vulnerable to this serious, but preventable, health problem,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. “It is critically important that landlords follow the law and promptly repair peeling lead paint in homes with young children.”
Lead paint is the main cause of lead poisoning in young children. Lead poisoning is defined as a blood lead level containing 10 or more micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (mcg/dL). Even low traces of lead found in blood can cause learning and behavior problems in individuals. State law requires doctors to test children at or around 1 and 2 years of age, because not all children show clinical symptoms.
In 2011, 342 children under 6 were newly identified with blood lead levels of 15 mcg/dL or higher compared to 448 children in 2010, which represents a 24% decline. When a child is diagnosed with lead poisoning at this level, the Health Department conducts a home inspection to identify lead paint hazards and other lead exposures, orders landlords to repair hazards in a safe and timely manner, and works with families and health care providers to reduce the child’s exposure.
Annual citywide surveillance data shows that although rates declined overall in Brooklyn in 2011, Brooklyn children are disproportionately affected by lead poisoning. Though only 35% of the children under 6 who were tested last year were from Brooklyn, 46% of the lead poisoning cases came from that borough.
In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eliminated its level of concern of10 mcg/dL and adopted a reference level of 5 mcg/dL. In 2009, the Health Department had already adopted the lower level as a trigger for notifying families and medical providers of children with blood lead levels of 5 mcg/dL and above about the need for preventing exposure to lead and follow up blood lead testing.
How To Protect Your Children From Lead Poisoning:
You can also read the Health Bulletin “Protect Your Child from Lead Poisoning,” annual data reports on lead poisoning, and other materials by visiting nyc.gov (search: lead poisoning prevention).
- Report peeling paint to your landlord. Landlords are required to fix peeling paint in homes where young children live. Call 311 if your landlord does not respond.
- Remind your doctor to test your child for lead poisoning at 1 and 2 years of age. Ask your doctor about testing older children who may also be at risk of lead exposure.
- Wash floors, windowsills, hands, toys and pacifiers often to remove lead dust that may be present in the home.
- Do not use imported foods, spices, medicines, pots, dishes, cosmetics or toys known to contain lead. (More information: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/environmental/lead-in-products.shtml)
- Use only cold tap water for making baby formula and for drinking and cooking. Run the water until it feels cold before using it.
National Lead Poisoning Prevention week is October 21-27, 2012. As part of expanded outreach efforts, the Health Department and child care agencies are providing educational programs through October and November. The goal of these programs is to provide valuable information on the health effects of lead exposure, encourage blood lead testing, and what families can do to prevent lead exposure.
For more information on preventing childhood lead poisoning or to host an event for National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, call 311.