April 25, 2023
New York City Has Reduced Childhood Lead Exposure by 93 Percent Since 2005
NEW YORK – New York City Mayor Eric Adams today released “Taking the Lead on Lead” — a report highlighting the city’s efforts in the fight against lead exposure. The report provides updates from every city agency with lead-related compliance requirements to proactively monitor and mitigate lead exposure. It serves as a measure of progress since “LeadFreeNYC” — the city’s roadmap to eliminating childhood lead exposure — was released in 2019. Of the 46 commitments made in LeadFreeNYC, 42 are completed or ongoing, and the remaining four are currently in progress. Mayor Adams also today appointed Jasmine Blake as the city’s new citywide lead compliance officer to monitor different city agencies’ ongoing lead compliance and reporting and continue interagency coordination and communication.
“Keeping New Yorkers and their families safe is the most important work we do as a city, and that work includes protecting our children from the dangers of lead exposure and lead poisoning,” said Mayor Adams. “Thanks to these efforts and the intensive work of our city agencies, lead exposure in children has been reduced by 93 percent since 2005, but there is still more work to be done. We have made great strides in public health and safety, and we will continue to work hard toward our goal of a lead-free New York City.”
“This report shows the significant steps the Adams administration is and will continue to take to protect every child, family, and individual from lead exposure,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom. “We will continue to build upon and invest in measures that keep us all safe and healthy.”
“New York City has long been and must remain a leader in protecting children from lead-based paint hazards,” said Chief Housing Officer Jessica Katz. “Taking the Lead on Lead shows that there is nowhere more aggressive than New York City in eliminating lead exposure. Using housing policy to improve public health is a key tent pole of the Adams administration’s housing and homelessness blueprint. Through a whole-of-government approach, we will strengthen our fight against lead and keep New Yorkers, especially children, lead-free.”
“Being aggressive in our efforts to detect and combat lead is a central focus of our 2019 agreement with HUD, and a critical aspect of ensuring that public housing is safe for the New Yorkers who live there,” said New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Interim CEO Lisa Bova-Hiatt. “NYCHA has diligently worked to demonstrate leadership by creating best practices as we continue to test tens of thousands of apartments and utilize available resources to ensure that hazards are being abated. The PACT program also requires that NYCHA’s partners test and abate lead via removal in all units, which ensures residents live in a lead-free unit when the developments are modernized. The health of the Authority’s families remains our top priority.”
“The New York City Department of Environmental Protection takes great pride in delivering high-quality, lead-free drinking water to nearly 10 million New Yorkers every day,” said Chief Climate Officer and New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Rohit T. Aggarwala. “I thank Mayor Adams for his dedication to achieving a LeadFreeNYC, as we continue the important work of assisting homeowners in removing any remaining lead water service lines so they can continue to enjoy the best tap water in the world for generations to come.”
“Research has shown that for every dollar spent on lead prevention, up to hundreds of dollars are saved in future costs,” said New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “The work we do to screen for lead in children — as well as to investigate, mitigate, and enforce against hazardous conditions — benefits children, families, and communities throughout their lifetimes. This is public health at its best, and the administration’s continued leadership in this field will keep our city at the forefront of lead prevention and protect future generations of New Yorkers.”
“Making homes healthy and lead-safe is always on our minds at HPD, because our children deserve to grow up without the threat of lead exposure,” said New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Adolfo Carrión Jr. “In our fight for a LeadFreeNYC, we’re calling on all property owners and residents to join us in taking quick and aggressive action against lead hazards, like peeling paint in the home, so we can keep every child safe from lead poisoning.”
“New York City has always been at the forefront of fighting childhood lead exposure, and this latest report demonstrates our commitment to furthering this work,” said Citywide Lead Compliance Officer Jasmine Blake. “Under this new position, we will be able to improve interagency communication, strengthen our lead-related programs, and monitor compliance with city, state, and federal laws to better protect all New Yorkers.”
Investing in Public Housing
Since LeadFreeNYC was released in 2019, NYCHA has overhauled its anti-lead strategy to make it one of the most effective and aggressive public housing lead programs in the nation. Using $77 million in city capital and federal Community Development Block Grant funding, NYCHA will test 77,000 apartments for lead paint using New York City’s new, more protective threshold. That new standard is 0.5 milligrams of lead per square centimeter of paint (as compared to the previous standard of 1 milligram per square centimeter). NYCHA will first focus on apartments with children under six years old.
Under this new threshold, NYCHA launched an abatement program to address lead-based paint issues in these apartments. That abatement program, which requires extensive levels of work, is supported by $1.4 billion in city capital funds and offers temporary relocation to residents while their apartments are being stripped of lead. Additionally, whenever a NYCHA household moves out, the city tests those apartments and remedies any lead issues before new residents move in. Further, the city is providing $673 million in capital funding towards the comprehensive modernization program at NYCHA’s Saint Nicholas Houses and Todt Hill Houses, which will include lead abatement as a part of the larger renovations.
Protecting New Yorkers in Private Homes
HPD has implemented at least 10 major changes since LeadFreeNYC was released in 2019. Notably, HPD has expanded the application of Local Law 1 — which governs lead enforcement — to include rental units in one- and two-family homes, as well as apartments where children under six spend more than 10 hours per week (as opposed to just locations where they reside). And now that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved a device that can test for lead at lower levels, HPD enforces this new standard to make sure that families are as safe as possible.
HPD has also stepped-up enforcement and litigation efforts against landlords who are failing to meet lead-related obligations. One agreement with a major landlord, resulting from HPD litigation, resulted in $82,500 in civil penalties and a consent order to correct over 80 lead-based paint violations across six Brooklyn buildings impacting 285 homes, as well as complying with all other lead-based paint requirements. HPD also seeks enforcement in conjunction with the New York City Department of Law and the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants.
Addressing Elevated Blood Lead Levels and Expanding Outreach to Partners, Caregivers, and Providers
DOHMH has developed a comprehensive approach to address elevated blood lead levels in children and adults and to reduce lead hazards in homes and communities. In March 2022, DOHMH further reduced the blood lead level for intervention from five micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL) to 3.5 mcg/dL or higher, which aligns with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s current reference level. In October 2022, the New York City Board of Health updated the Health Code to codify this intervention level. DOHMH has also dramatically expanded its efforts to engage with partners, caregivers, and providers, to ensure that they have the information they need to address lead. These efforts include:
Drinking Water and Lead Service Lines
New York City’s drinking water is delivered lead-free from the city’s upstate reservoirs and distribution system. However, lead could potentially absorb into drinking water through a home’s lead water service line. Although lead water service lines were banned in 1961, some older homes may still have them connecting their house to the city’s water main in the street. To protect New Yorkers, DEP carefully monitors and treats the city’s drinking water to minimize the amount of lead that could be absorbed from lead pipes and plumbing fixtures. In 2022, DEP completed a pilot program to assist 600 low-income homeowners in replacing privately-owned lead service lines at no cost to them. Based on that pilot, DEP has submitted federal grant applications for millions of dollars, which would allow DEP to dramatically expand these free replacements in environmental justice communities. DEP also provided nearly 10,000 free lead test kits to New Yorkers in 2022.
About Jasmine Blake
Jasmine Blake will take on the role of citywide lead compliance officer while continuing to serve as chief of staff in the office of the chief housing officer, which sets the Adams administration’s housing strategy and oversees NYCHA, HPD, New York City Housing Development Corporation, the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants, and the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery Operations. Blake has 15 years of government, political, and strategic communications experience.
Prior to joining the Adams administration, in March 2022, Blake managed the affordable housing portfolio for BerlinRosen as vice president for public affairs.
She first worked with lead compliance monitoring at NYCHA, where she was the deputy chief communications officer and oversaw the public management and engagement for the Authority while it established NYCHA’s first lead compliance program.
Blake holds a Bachelors in Government and European Studies from the University of Texas at Austin and a Masters in Global Communication from George Washington University.