Boro Park Residents Can Protect Children from Rampant Lead Exposure in Neighborhood
By Yehudit Garmaise
While nyc.gov’s graphic that depicts children’s lead exposures in most other New York City neighborhoods is indicated by lighter shades of pink, Boro Park’s children’s high level of lead exposure jumps out with a frightening shade of dark red, indicating its severity.
The incidence of elevated blood levels in Boro Park children in 2021 were the second highest in the city: second only to Greenpoint,” James Neimeister, the communications and organizing manager for Sunset Park’s District 38’s City Council Member Alexa Avilés, reported to Community Board 12 on Tuesday night.
Neimeister learned of the 5,340 Boro Park children under the age of 3 who were exposed to lead in 2021 when was attending a hearing at which the City Council considered a package of legislation that seeks to eliminate the risk of lead paint poisoning in NYC.
A 22.9% per 1,000 children in Boro Park tested at an elevated blood level of more than 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood, Neimeister told BoroPark24, and is clearly depicted on nyc.gov’s Environment and Health Data portal.
In 2012, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention established that a blood lead level of 5 mcg/dL identifies children who have blood lead levels higher than most children’s levels.
“Lead is a metal that is toxic to people,” NYC’s Environment and Health Data portal.” There is no safe level of lead in your body.”
Exposure to lead, which was previously used in gasoline, paint, ceramics, caulking, pipes, and solder, can cause learning and behavior problems, and delay physical growth and mental development.
Although NYC banned the use of lead-based paint in homes in 1960, Council Member Schulman, who represents District 20 said, “The city failed, failed, in response to previous legislation to inspect and hold landlords accountable, the legislation also created a pro-active inspection program.
“Those laws addressed some key problems, but they were not enough. There are still loopholes that allow lead hazards to persist.”
Schulman, the chairman for the City Council’s Committee on Health, said that the new legislation can help NYC “get to its goal of zero lead poisoning once and for all.”
“Layers of lead paint may still be present in older buildings and can become dangerous when the paint chips or peels or is abraded, or when renovations or repairs are conducted without properly controlling dust,” nyc.gov reports. “Families living in older, poorly maintained housing are at higher risk for lead poisoning.”
Council member Pierina Ana Sanchez, (14th district) Committee chairman of Buildings and Housing, emphasized the high incidence of lead exposure in the Bronx, which showed 15,800 children whose blood reveal lead exposure in 2021, nyc.gov shows that tests revealed almost double the incidence of lead exposure of children in Brooklyn, which showed 29,400 children exposed to lead.
In Manhattan, 11,300 children showed elevated lead exposure, 20,800 children in Queens, and 3,800 in Staten Island.
“In New York City, lead-based paint hazards remain a significant health concern, particularly for children,” said Sanchez, who noted that when exposed to lead, young children may not exhibit any symptoms, which is why early screenings and evaluations are so important.”
Many older buildings in the city still contain lead paint, which can release toxic lead dust or chips that can be accidentally inhaled, ingested, or absorbed when the paint deteriorates, or is disturbed, Sanchez said.
For children 6 and under, lead poisoning can have serious health consequences. Developing brains and bodies are especially vulnerable to exposure,” said Council Member Sanchez. “Even low levels of exposure can cause irreversible neurological damage: leading to developmental delays, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems.
“Long-term exposure has been linked to other health issues, including headaches, stomachaches, hypertension, nausea, kidney damage, and reproductive health problems.”
The main source of childhood lead poisoning is lead-based paint in older, deteriorated housing, said Neimeister, who added that children with lead poisoning may develop health, learning, and behavioral problems that can persist long after the lead exposures have stopped and children’s blood lead level has declined.
“Fetal exposure to lead may also result in cognitive and developmental problems,” Neimeister said.
Adults who work in construction and who breathe dust during work that disturbs old lead paint also can be exposed to lead.
Other sources of lead poisoning in adults are consumer products that contain lead, such various health remedies, supplements, and spices bought in Asian countries.
To prevent exposure to lead hazards:
If you live in a one- or two-family house with peeling paint and have a child under six years old, call 311, and ask for the Health Department’s Healthy Homes Program (HHP).
If your landlord does not fix peeling paint, or if you think repair work is being done unsafely, call 311. Thoroughly wash floors, window sills, hands, toys, and pacifiers often. Do not use imported foods, spices, clay pots and dishes, medicines, toys, and cosmetics that contain lead.
photo credit: Flickr