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Mayor de Blasio Announces LeadFreeNYC, a Comprehensive Plan to End Childhood Lead Exposure

January 28, 2019

New programs targeting every apartment, every lead source and every child will be fully in place within 24 months

NEW YORK— Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Kathryn Garcia today released the City’s Roadmap to Eliminating Childhood Lead Exposure, following a 90-day review of all agencies’ policies related to lead prevention.

The LeadFreeNYC plan will — for the first time — screen every apartment for potential lead hazards, eliminate lead risks in NYCHA apartments and family shelters, target unsafe consumer goods, provide children with dedicated nurses, and link together all City agencies responding to lead exposure.

“Childhood lead exposure is preventable—and this is a plan to eliminate it altogether,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “New York City has driven down the number of kids exposed to lead by 90 percent, and now we will finish the mission. With LeadFreeNYC, we will target every source of exposure, every apartment and every child. We will be there for kids and parents every step of the way, until we drive this problem to zero.”

“Lead exposure is preventable. No child should be adversely affected by where they live,” said Commissioner Kathryn Garcia. “For the last 90 days, I have met with advocates, elected officials, and agency partners to craft a plan to eliminate childhood lead exposure in New York City. We are taking on our legacy of lead head on.  Together, these policies and operational changes will create a LeadFreeNYC.”

“As a parent and as a doctor, I’m proud to be part of this comprehensive effort to finally eradicate child exposure to lead in New York City,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio. “LeadFreeNYC brings together the right resources and coordination to take us to the next phase, accelerate our progress, and finish the work. Building on our successes, we are putting in place an aggressive set of measures to eliminate sources of lead exposure, and enhance care coordination to help children already identified with elevated blood lead levels. New York City can and will get this done.”

“There is no safe level of lead exposure,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “Under this plan, we will all redouble our efforts to drive down the number of children with lead exposure in New York City. I urge all parents of children 3 and under to get their child tested for elevated blood lead levels and to call 311 if they have peeling paint in their home.”

“At HPD, it is mission-critical to ensure the quality and safety of our city’s housing stock and protect residents, especially children. That is why we are on the front lines every day, working aggressively to prevent and address the hazards of lead-based paint. More can always be done, and with the launch of LeadFreeNYC, we will further strengthen our enforcement standards and efforts, proactively audit buildings in targeted areas, expand our outreach to owners, and make it easier for them to comply with the law. I applaud the Mayor for his leadership and look forward to working with all our sister agencies to drive lead exposure in our city to zero,” said Housing and Preservation Department Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer.

The Roadmap’s approach is twofold: prevent exposure to lead hazards in the first place, and respond quickly and comprehensively if a child has an elevated blood lead level. To protect New York City kids, the City will increase resources and support for children, parents, and healthcare providers to make sure every child under 3 is tested for lead exposure – and any child who does test positive gets the services they need.

In New York City, public health data points to lead paint and the dust it creates as the primary source of childhood lead exposure. In 2004, the New York City Council enacted Local Law 1 (LL1), which grants the City expansive powers to hold landlords accountable for addressing lead hazards and which helped achieve dramatic declines in childhood lead exposure in NYC. The report details how the City proposes to use the full power of the law to target bad actors and build on LL1 with bold steps, like lowering the lead-paint and dust standards to remove hazards with smaller amounts of lead than ever before, focusing on high-risk neighborhoods for enforcement and outreach, and aggressively increasing the City’s oversight over construction work that poses a risk of lead dust. 

Under LeadFreeNYC, New York City will:

  • Reduce the amount of lead in paint and dust that triggers remediation and abatement to the lowest level of any major U.S. city
  • Require annual inspections of apartments in 1- and 2-family homes previously excluded from the City’s lead paint regime
  • Expand the use of stop work orders from the Department of Buildings when the Health Department finds lead exposure risks during construction
  • Ensure children are immediately provided with blood lead level testing in any home where housing inspectors identify a lead paint hazard
  • Provide a dedicated nurse to any child with an elevated blood lead level to coordinate care
  • Launch ad campaigns promoting testing for children in communities with low testing rates, to raise awareness about free water testing kits provided by the City, and promoting awareness of harmful consumer products containing lead
  • Test all 135,000 NYCHA apartments where lead has not been ruled out
  • Proactively test and remediate all lead sources in shelters
  • Establish a new Lead-Free Designation for homes where all lead has been eliminated
  • Publish a Lead Products Index of consumer goods like spices and ceramics that contain lead, consolidating Health Department rules to protect retailers and consumers
  • Expedite service line replacement beginning with low-income homes
  • Reduce lead exposure risks from soil by offering free clean topsoil to community gardens and surveying NYCHA playgrounds to cover exposed soil when needed

In addition, the City has also launch a new website, LeadFreeNYC, to provide information and guidance for parents, tenants, landlords, and all New Yorkers. The website includes data and progress on the City’s lead prevention initiatives and includes educational materials to help New Yorkers understand the dangers of the lead and the tools available to anyone who may have been exposed to lead.

The City will also hire a Citywide Lead Compliance Officer and expand an advisory board to help ensure the City stays on track to meet its goals and mission to eliminate lead exposure in New York City. The Citywide Lead Compliance Officer will oversee the execution of these recommendations, coordinate data sharing among agencies, and will be responsible for the compliance of lead-related regulations. The advisory commission – currently organized by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene – will be expanded to include additional environmental advocates, community groups and experts to help keep the city accountable in its mission and will meet on a quarterly basis.

“Our pediatricians across the five boroughs offer lead screening as part of routine medical care and are committed to empowering families with more education starting at newborn baby visits to help them identify risks, follow screening recommendations and prevent childhood lead exposure,” said Dr. Mitchell Katz, President and CEO, NYC Health + Hospitals.”

“The health and well-being of the families we serve and support is our number one priority,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. “This comprehensive citywide approach will ensure that all shelter units are guaranteed lead-free and safe for any family facing homelessness and seeking our help as they get back on their feet.”

“All New Yorkers deserve a safe place to call home, a responsibility we take seriously. We are thankful for the continued support provided by Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Garcia on their roadmap to eliminate lead exposure at NYCHA,” said NYCHA General Manager Vito Mustaciuolo. “We are undertaking the most aggressive lead testing program ever and this interagency collaboration will help us achieve our goals and hold us accountable.”

“We look forward to working with our partner agencies to protect New York's children from the dangers of lead exposures, including when construction work is occurring in their buildings,” said Buildings Commissioner Rick D. Chandler, PE.

“New York City has some of the best tap water in the world and the new programs outlined today will empower residents and help them manage the risks of any privately-owned lead plumbing,” said DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza. “I thank Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Garcia for their leadership on this issue as we continue the important work of removing any remaining internal lead exposure for our high-quality tap water.”

“The City is committed to combating the toxic effects of lead and ensuring our city’s children and families have healthy and safe futures, no matter their immigration status or what languages they speak,” said Bitta Mostofi, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs will work with our sister agencies to provide all New Yorkers with the best information and how to connect with LeadFreeNYC so that together we can end childhood lead exposure.”

“Parks will do its part to work collaboratively to address the risk of lead exposure for children in New York City; it is of the utmost importance,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP. “This citywide effort ensures that our children are safe whether they are at home, at school, or in our parks.”

“This aggressive action is necessary to safeguard the health of our children and protect them from the many serious, preventable issues that result from lead exposure,” said Assembly Member Steven Cymbrowitz, Chair of the Housing Committee. “I commend the administration for its comprehensive response to this urgent issue.”

“As a Council Member representing a district with a significant public housing stock, I am looking forward to the implementation of LeadFreeNYC and the improved health conditions my constituents will experience as a result,” said Council Member Diana Ayala. “I thank Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Garcia for this extensive plan and their commitment to eradicating childhood lead exposure throughout our city.”

“When it comes to protecting our children and families from the hazards of lead, we need an all-of-the-above approach,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “When it comes to protecting our children and families from the hazards of lead, we need an all-of-the-above approach. LeadFreeNYC does just that by providing new resources to identify lead hazards, enhancing enforcement mechanisms, and helping to raise awareness in under-served communities,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “I applaud Mayor De Blasio for addressing this critically important issue and I look forward to working with him on implementation.”. LeadFreeNYC does just that by providing new resources to identify lead hazards, enhancing enforcement mechanisms, and helping to raise awareness in under-served communities,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “I applaud Mayor De Blasio for addressing this critically important issue and I look forward to working with him on implementation.”

“Keeping our children safe from the dangers of lead is paramount to providing them with the best opportunity to succeed in life,” said Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. “Updating the City’s lead standards, and providing additional and more thorough safeguards to ensure the children of this city are safe from lead poisoning is, therefore, a no-brainer. I commend Mayor de Blasio and his administration for their commitment to eradicating lead poisoning in this city through this new LeadFreeNYC initiative.”

"For over a decade the City of New York has been working diligently to eliminate children's exposure to lead, and in that time we have seen extraordinary improvements," said Council Member Andrew Cohen.  "Now that we are in striking distance of having solved this problem we must redouble our efforts! I commend Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Kathryn Garcia on their work to create LeadFreeNYC which will further help to protect every child and family from the dangers of lead exposure."

“We must use all the tools at our disposal to prevent childhood lead poisoning – including fully enforcing our strong existing lead law,” said Rachel Spector, Director of the Environmental Justice Program at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “We will only achieve a lead free NYC when landlords get a strong message that they will be found and held to account if they put New York City children at risk by failing to inspect apartments, abate lead paint at turnover, or conduct lead-safe construction. We thank the Mayor and Commissioner Garcia for their attention to the preventable tragedy of lead exposure.” 

“Children of color have borne the heaviest burden of lead poisoning, a completely preventable environmental health challenge, in this City and their exposure to lead is coming primarily from two sources – peeling lead paint in their homes and lead tainted products on store shelves in their communities,” said Cecil Corbin-Mark, WE ACT for Environmental Justice’s Deputy Director and Director of Policy Initiatives. “Lead poisoning is poisoning, and poisoning a human being is a crime. WE ACT thanks the Mayor and the Commissioner for taking leadership on lead poisoning, and we look forward to working with them on a lead-free New York City.”

“NYC tenants know this issue well. The tenants of Lead Dust Free NYC have faced serious lead dust contamination in their homes and have organized against it,” said Brandon Kielbasa, Cooper Square Committee’s Director of Organizing. “Uncontrolled, lead laden, construction dust has been a problem for too long. Landlords who renovate buildings need to follow the law. If they don’t, they should face steep penalties. Overall, enforcement is key for combating dust contamination and all lead issues. Many thanks to Commissioner Garcia and the Mayor for their efforts.”

Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters, said, “Protecting the children of NYC from the irreversible damage caused by lead poisoning is a top priority for NYLCV. We thank Mayor De Blasio and Senior Lead Advisor Kathryn Garcia for focusing on this important public health issue. The LeadFreeNYC Plan is a step forward, calling for much-needed resources to prevent childhood lead poisoning and make New York a healthier city. The most critical step towards eliminating lead in paint and dust, the main sources of exposure in children, is stronger enforcement, which is why we support the Plan’s proposed website, enhanced enforcement and new lead compliance officer. We look forward to working with our partners to keep this issue a top priority for the administration.”

“The only way to prevent lead exposure is to identify and eliminate lead hazards before they harm children,” said Ben Anderson, Director of Poverty and Health Policy at the Children’s Defense Fund-New York. “Broader inspection, enforcement and abatement efforts will reduce lead hazards and the number of children harmed by lead exposure in New York City. We thank the Mayor and Commissioner Garcia for their leadership in this area, and look forward to more children and families living in lead free housing.”

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