Childhood lead poisoning in New York City

New York City has dramatically reduced the number of children exposed to lead but hasn’t met its longstanding goal of eliminating childhood poisoning, leaving some children vulnerable. Along with lead-based paint in old housing, the city’s children can face poisoning hazards from consumer products, soil, and water.

Reuters found:
– 5,400 city children tested with an elevated blood lead level, 5 micrograms per deciliter or higher, New York’s most recent annual report on lead poisoning showed. More than 800 had levels at least twice that high.
– A 2004 housing law co-sponsored by Bill de Blasio, now the mayor, targeted scofflaw landlords. But the city isn’t policing two key provisions that require landlords to find and fix hazards, sometimes waiting until children get poisoned before taking action.
– The areas where the most children tested high are in Brooklyn, including neighborhoods with historic brownstones and surging real estate values, where construction and renovation can unleash the toxin. The worst spot – with recent rates nearly triple Flint’s – was in a Hasidic Jewish area with the city’s highest concentration of small children.
– An affluent area near Riverside Park in Manhattan’s Upper West Side has had rates comparable to Flint’s.
– Reporters were able to buy dangerous leaded products in city shops, including children’s jewelry. One item, a cosmetic marketed for use around children’s eyes, tested with levels 4,700 times the U.S. safety standard. It was labeled lead-free.
– Reuters purchased other items subject to New York lead warnings through online giants Amazon and eBay, which later pulled the items from their websites.
– Soil testing in Brooklyn backyards and a park detected lead levels comparable to some sites designated under the federal Superfund toxic-cleanup program.
– 3,810 Number of neighborhood areas in the United States with recently recorded childhood lead poisoning rates at least double those found in Flint, Michigan, according to Reuters research.

Lead pollution in New York City
Childhood lead poisoning in New York City (2005 vs 2015) 
These maps show that childhood lead exposure across New York City declined significantly between 2005 and 2015, the most recent year of available data. Experts say this is partly due to the city’s efforts to inspect old homes and, when necessary, order landlords to abate lead hazards. Even so, pockets of the city, especially in Brooklyn, continue to struggle with lead poisoning. One portion of Williamsburg still had rates of tested children with high lead levels two to three times Flint’s during the peak of that city’s water crisis.
percentage of tested children with elevated lead, 2005 vs 2015
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