Number of young children exposed to lead in New York has gone down by 90 percent since 2005
There has been a 90 percent decrease in childhood blood lead levels in New York City since 2005, according to a surveillance report by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Exposure to lead, a neurotoxin, is known to damage the brain and the central nervous system. Children exposed to it show retarded growth and development, slow learning, behavior and speech problems. It is believed that hundreds of thousands of children are at risk of exposure to lead.
Keeping this in mind, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the LeadFreeNYC plan in January this year under which the imperative is to prevent exposure to lead hazards in the first place and respond quickly and comprehensively if a child has an elevated blood lead level.
As per the Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC), the reference value for childhood blood lead levels is 5 mcg/dl, with children below six most at risk for lead exposure. Lead exposure can mainly be attributed to lead-based paints, especially in houses built before 1978. When the paint wears off, it can release lead dust that children can swallow or inhale.
To check this menace, the health department routinely surveils its population. The most recent surveillance was carried out from January through June 2019, where they screened 185,711 New York City children younger than 18 years for lead exposure. Of the children tested, 2,217 had a blood lead level of 5 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL) or higher, with 1,794 aged below six years.
Their report also throws light on the fact that children living in public housing had lesser lead exposure than those living in private housing. "Between January and June 2019, the rate of children with elevated blood lead levels associated with private housing was 12.2 per 1,000 tested, down from 14.1 per 1,000 tested in 2018. For children associated with public housing, the rate was 5.2 per 1,000 tested, down from 6.2 per 1,000 tested in 2018," the report read.
“We must continue to protect children and prevent lead exposure. If you have a child under age 3, be sure to get their blood lead level tested by their pediatrician. And, if you have peeling or damaged paint in your home that your landlord has not fixed, we urge you to call 311 so it can be addressed,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot in a press statement.