What to Know
- A systemic failure by the city has resulted in thousands of children testing positive for lead exposure, an investigation by NYC Comptroller
- For years, the city failed to use its own data to perform lead inspections in buildings most likely to pose threats to children, data shows
- Probe found that 2,749 kids tested positive for lead exposure in uninspected buildings even after the city was made aware of previous cases
A systemic failure by the city has resulted in thousands of children testing positive for lead exposure, an investigation by New York City’s Comptroller Scott Stringer found.
For years, the city failed to use its own data to perform lead inspections in buildings most likely to pose threats to children – never inspecting 9,671 buildings with documented cases of child lead exposure, according to the data revealed Thursday.
Data relating to the location of children with elevated blood lead levels remained siloed in the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, according to Stringer, and as a result, from 2013 through late 2018 the Department of Housing Preservation and Development never performed a lead inspection of 9,671 buildings where 11,972 children tested positive for lead exposure above the federal action level.
The investigation found that 2,749 children tested positive for lead exposure in the buildings that went uninspected for lead paint even after the city was made aware of previous cases of lead exposure in the same buildings.
According to the data, 35 percent of buildings connected with cases of three or more children with lead exposure were never inspected for lead by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
Additionally, the data reveals that a whopping 22,000 children – or 20 percent – of all children under the age of three who should have been tested for lead poisoning were not tested.
“Lead is poison – and no amount of it in a child’s blood is acceptable – period. Yet our investigation reveals how bureaucratic breakdowns and a lethargic approach to enforcement allowed children to fall through cracks and become exposed to toxic lead. As a City, we are defined by how we treat our children, but the City is failing in its responsibility to use all available means to eliminate childhood lead poisoning across the city. There has to be top-to-bottom change,” Stringer said in a statement.
“Any lead poisoning of our children must be treated as a five alarm fire, but the City isn’t utilizing basic tools at its disposal to extinguish the fires – even in the most problematic buildings it knows about," his statement goes on to say.
In response to the investigation’s disturbing findings, Stringer has called for an overhaul of lead exposure mitigation and enforcement, asking the city to: proactively inspect all the 9,671 buildings found to be associated with one or more instances of childhood lead exposure; commit to fully funding the administration's LeadFreeNYC plan and equip agencies with the resources needed; direct HPD to start issuing violations and fines to landlords who fail to remediate lead paint; and, ensure all children are tested for lead exposure.