Health Department Launches Child Blood Lead Testing Campaign

Doctors are required by law to test children for lead at ages 1 and 2

While more than 80 percent of NYC children are tested for lead exposure at least once before their third birthday, only 50 percent of children are tested at both ages 1 and 2

The campaign is part of LeadFreeNYC, the City’s comprehensive roadmap to eliminate childhood lead exposure

lead testing campaign image of child with toy in his mouth
February 4, 2019 — The Health Department today launched a public awareness campaign to encourage parents to get their children’s blood tested for lead. When exposed to lead, children can develop learning and behavior problems. While 80 percent of NYC children are tested at least once before their third birthday, only 50 percent of children are tested at both ages 1 and 2, as required by law. In addition, the campaign encourages parents to report peeling paint to their landlord or call 311. Peeling lead paint is the primary source of exposure to lead for children in New York City. The $1.5 million campaign will run through April and features citywide subway, radio and digital ads in English, Spanish, Russian, Yiddish, and Chinese languages. The ads will also be placed in bus shelters, salons and convenience stores in neighborhoods with lower blood lead testing rates and higher rates of elevated blood lead levels in young children. The campaign is part of LeadFreeNYC, the City’s roadmap to eliminating childhood lead exposure.

“With LeadFreeNYC the City has a comprehensive roadmap to further protect children from ever being exposed to lead in the first place — and ensuring that all children are tested for lead in blood at ages 1 and again at 2 is a critical part of this effort,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio. “This new campaign provides families and clinicians with the information they need to ensure all children are tested.”

“Children under 3 are at greatest risk for lead exposure, because they explore the world by putting things in their mouths and their bodies are still growing,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “Most children exposed to lead do not look or feel sick. The only way to know for sure if they are exposed is by getting a blood lead test. We encourage all parents and guardians to get their children tested.”

New York State law requires all children to be tested for lead at ages 1 and 2 by their health care provider. Providers must also assess children for exposure to lead until age 6 and test them if a risk of exposure is found.

The lead testing awareness campaign complements recent efforts by the City to reduce childhood lead exposure. Last July, the City announced a change in its lead-related inspection protocols, becoming one of the first jurisdictions in the country to conduct environmental investigations for all children under 18 years old with a blood lead level of 5 micrograms per deciliter or higher. The Health Department recently implemented an intensive effort to identify children who recently missed their one-year or two-year blood lead test and to contact these families by letter, urging them to have their children tested. Also in 2018, the Department began issuing quarterly lead surveillance reports which show a variety of indicators, including data on elevated blood lead levels in children who are in private versus public housing. The Department continues to collaborate with Medicaid managed care plans to improve testing compliance and provides annual testing guidance to health care providers.

The Health Department, through its Healthy Homes and Environmental Health Assessment and Communication Programs, has developed a comprehensive approach to address elevated blood lead levels in children and adults and to reduce lead hazards in homes and communities. This includes follow-up investigations of individuals with elevated blood lead levels, environmental interventions and enforcement activities, education and outreach, surveillance and research. Visit for more information.

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
  • Immediately ensure children have access to blood lead level testing whenever a housing inspector identifies 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

“The number of children exposed to lead in NYC is astonishing, mainly because the affects from lead poisoning in children are permanent and in some cases deadly,” said Council Member Ampry-Samuel. “Although the City has made strides for reducing lead exposure, so many children are still susceptible, which is why it’s so important to get your child’s blood lead levels checked. This is especially true for those living in public housing as NYCHA works towards lead abatement of its developments. My office will ensure that families are protect as the Health Department launches its new Child Blood Lead Testing Campaign; which will provide environmental interventions and education throughout the City and test 135,000 NYCHA apartments where lead has not been ruled out. It is time that we all do the right thing on behalf of the families and children.”

Lead poisoning is preventable. What can you do to protect yourself?

  • Report peeling or damaged paint to your building owner. Building owners are required by law to safely fix peeling paint. If they do not fix the problem, you can report them online ( or by calling 311.
  • Keep children away from peeling paint and renovations.
  • Wash floors and windowsills often. Wash children’s hands and toys too.
  • Remove shoes before entering your home.
  • Be aware that some products may contain lead, such as certain spices, traditional medicines, cosmetics and ceramic ware.
  • Use only cold tap water to make baby formula, drink or cook. Run the water for at least 30 seconds or until it is noticeably colder. Call 311 to get a free water testing kit.
  • If someone in your household works with lead, wash work clothes separately from the family laundry.

Get tested
A blood test is the only way to find out if you or your child has an elevated blood lead level. In New York State, children must be tested for lead at ages 1 and 2, and screened for risk up to age 6. Ask your doctor about testing older children if you think they may have been exposed to lead. Pregnant women should be assessed for lead exposure at their first prenatal visit. People who use products that may contain lead should also get a blood lead test. Call 311 for help with finding a doctor or clinic.



MEDIA CONTACT: Stephanie Buhle/Michael Lanza, (347) 396-4177