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Lead is a toxic heavy metal that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children. Lead in the body is distributed to the brain, liver, kidney and bones and is stored in teeth and bones where it accumulates over time. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, the ability to pay attention and academic achievement and the effect of lead exposure cannot be corrected.
Sources of lead include paint (in older homes, old toys, furniture and crafts), dust, soil, drinking water, air, folk medicine and numerous others. However, according to the New York State Department of Health, the most common cause of lead poisoning is dust and chips from old paint. Even though lead-based paints were banned for use in housing in 1978, all houses built prior to 1978 are likely to contain some lead-based paint.
According to the United States Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program, 78% of housing structures in New York State were built prior to 1979 and 42.9% of total housing units were built before 1950. Given lead-based paints were only banned in 1978, it can be estimated that more than three quarters of all housing units in New York State have lead paint.
Children under the age of 6 years are at particular risk because they are growing rapidly and because they tend to put their hands or other objects, which may be contaminated with lead dust into their mouths. Children living at or below the poverty line who live in older housing are at the greatest risk because this housing is most likely to both contain old lead paint and be poorly maintained, resulting in active lead hazards. Some studies have found that children of some racial and ethnic groups living in older housing are disproportionately affected by lead.
The roles and responsibilities of local health departments (LHDs) regarding identification and coordination of follow-up services for children with elevated blood lead levels (EBLLs) are defined in NYCRR Title 10 Subpart 67-1. As defined in 67-1.6, local health departments shall:
LHD lead programs are responsible for tracking all children with BLLs > 5 µg/dL to assure that appropriate follow-up services are provided. Current New York State regulations define “follow-up” as actions by LHDs and health care providers which, depending on the child’s blood lead level and exposure history, include as appropriate.
To meet their responsibilities, LHD lead programs work in coordination with other team members, who may include the child’s parent(s) or guardian(s), the child’s health care provider(s), other LHD program staff and LHD or NYSDOH District Office (DO) environmental health staff, and other health professionals as needed.
The Executive budget proposes a lead poisoning primary prevention initiative, requiring the development of a state rental registry with proactive inspections to identify lead hazards. NYSACHO supports primary prevention as the most proactive approach to protecting children from lead-based paint exposure, however, sufficient resources to support implementation of both past and the current proposed lead poisoning prevention mandate must be made to ensure kids are protected.
Estimated costs of the Governor’s proposal for local health departments: $19,365,053.88
Cost to restore CLPPP+ funding to counties that received admin. cuts: $2,419,233
Estimated unfunded cost of implementation for care coordination and lead inspection and abatement enforcement activities for children with actionable elevated blood lead levels: $36,377,215.