City Hall promised Thursday it would notify families in thousands of city apartments about possible lead contamination after a bombshell watchdog report revealed buildings that are home to lead-poisoned kids often went unchecked.
The program aims to alert as many as 100,000 families living in 8,100 buildings across the city that a child in the building previously tested positive for levels of lead exposure considered dangerous by federal authorities.
“We are doubling down on our efforts to eradicate childhood lead exposure through LeadFreeNYC,” said Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, who heads the city’s lead prevention program. “This unprecedented outreach effort to 100,000 homes will hold landlords accountable and keep our kids safe.”
In addition to letters and robocalls, the city’s Health Department and Housing Preservation and Development Department will offer to inspect units home to children under 6 that are located in buildings where there was a previous positive lead test.
The move amounts to an about-face from City Hall, which was blistered for its sloth-like response to the September report from City Comptroller Scott Stringer that exposed how the Health Department’s use of an outdated lead poisoning standard left thousands of units unchecked for the toxic substance.
“Because of our investigation, the City has committed to proactively reaching out to thousands of previously uninspected buildings identified in our investigation to help eliminate the scourge of lead poisoning as part of a far more robust inspection approach,” said Stringe in a statement. “I look forward to meeting with city agencies to ensure that each building identified in our analysis is inspected and all New York City families are protected.”
Under city rules, a child was only considered poisoned if lead levels in their blood hit 15 micrograms per deciliter — triggering an inspection of their home and other places they spend time.
However, the Centers for Disease Control determined in 2012 the level should be just 5 micrograms.
That disconnect meant the homes of children who tested positive for levels of lead under the city standard were often never inspected, potentially leaving the poison that sickened them in place.
Stringer’s probe identified nearly 12,000 children that tested positive lead levels in that bureaucratic gap, meaning the Health Department never flagged their 10,000 apartments for the Housing Department to check.
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