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New York City Seal
Press Release
NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene
Office of Communications
CONTACT: Sandra Mullin/Greg Butler
Tuesday, August 27, 2002
(212) 788-5290
(877) 640-1347


Some Neighborhoods Still at Increased Risk; New Report Available Online

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) announced today the publication of Surveillance of Childhood Blood Lead Levels in New York City, a new report summarizing the first six years (1995-2000) of mandatory reporting of all blood lead levels. The report is intended to be a standard reference tool for health organizations, researchers, legislators, community-based organizations, government agencies, and all interested in seeking information on childhood lead poisoning in New York City.

Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, said, "Over the past several decades, the City has experienced a steep, steady decline in newly reported cases of childhood lead poisoning. But the data also show that childhood lead poisoning remains a significant public health concern in the City. Too many children are not tested by their first and second birthdays as required by law. This report demonstrates that we must increase the number of children tested for lead poisoning and focus prevention activities on neighborhoods at greatest risk."

New York State law mandates that medical providers screen all children for lead poisoning at one year of age, and again at two years of age. While 80% of children are tested for lead poisoning before their third birthday, each calendar year only 56% of one and two year old children receive blood lead tests. Other findings from the Surveillance of Childhood Blood Lead Levels in New York City include:

  • Between 1995 and 2000, the rate of children aged 6 months to less than 6 years of age with newly identified elevated blood lead levels declined from 53.4 per 1,000 children tested to 19.4 per 1,000 children tested, a decline of 64%.
  • New York City had higher rates of testing for lead poisoning and lower rates of children with elevated blood lead levels compared to New York State as a whole.
  • From 1983 - 2000, the number of children newly identified with blood lead levels requiring immediate medical intervention declined 92%.
  • More than two-thirds of lead poisoned children receiving environmental intervention from DOHMH's Lead Poisoning Prevention Program were Hispanic or non-Hispanic black.
  • Children with high blood lead levels were concentrated in poorer areas of the City.
  • Relative to the size of its population, Brooklyn has a disproportionate share of children requiring environmental intervention. Neighborhoods such as East New York, Bedford Stuyvesant-Crown Heights, Downtown-Brooklyn Heights-Park Slope, Williamsburg-Bushwick, and East Flatbush-Flatbush have been particularly affected. Some areas of Queens, mainly Jamaica and Southwest Queens, also have higher rates of children requiring intervention and monitoring.

DOHMH Recommendations
DOHMH recommends that physicians test all children under the age of six who fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • Children who live in or regularly visit a home or any other place built before 1960 that has peeling or chipping paint, or that has recent, ongoing, or planned renovation;
  • Children who have a brother, sister, housemate, or playmate with an elevated blood lead level or who frequently come into contact with an adult whose job or hobby may involve exposure to lead;
  • Children whose families visited other countries for substantial periods of time - or recently arrived from a country - where there may have been exposure to lead; and
  • Older children with developmental delays, who exhibit pica (ingestion of non-food substances, such as paint chips) or have extensive hand-to-mouth activity.

DOHMH's Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
Established in 1970, the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program strives to prevent lead poisoning in New York City's children through the following initiatives:

  • Educational outreach to families and medical providers about lead poisoning prevention and the importance of medical screening;
  • Targeted intervention efforts for high-risk populations;
  • Environmental intervention (assessment, monitoring, and enforcement);
  • Identification and tracking of children with elevated blood lead levels;
  • Communication with families of lead poisoned children and their doctors regarding lead poisoning prevention measures.
  • Education to contractors, landlords, and maintenance staff about safe lead practices, as well as enforcement of safe work practices during lead abatement; and
  • Research and surveillance to identify lead poisoning trends in New York City.
To obtain a copy of the Surveillance of Childhood Blood Lead Levels in New York City call (212) BAN-LEAD (212-226-5323); FAX requests to (212) 442-3156, or download the report at the following link

For more information on lead poisoning prevention or more information about DOHMH's Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, call 212-BAN-LEAD (212-226-5323), or visit