New York City is by no means a stranger to the issue of lead exposure. We’ve had our share at battling the problem over the years.
Lead paint was first outlawed back in the 60s. Then in 2004, there were additional laws passed cracking down on remaining lead poisoning violators by offering free lead testing and repairing hazardous living spaces. Authorities began to hold landlords accountable and monitoring high-risk areas.
Lead poisoning is one issue that many New Yorkers believed was finally under control. However, a recent investigation revealed that it's still a substantial problem for far too many.
Reuters did some investigating into led exposure in NYC by testing out different spaces throughout the city, as well as referencing blood testing records. While most areas have remained successfully lead-free, there were still around 69 areas accounting for several square blocks each, with results showing that 10% or more of children showed high levels of lead exposure.
As a way to fully understand how alarming this is, they compared the situation to Flint, Michigan's water contamination crisis during its peak lead exposure. The rates found in NYC areas are double that of Flint during their crisis period.
Old paint has always been one of the more obvious hazards, though there were other problematic exposure sources discovered include water contamination, leaded soils, cosmetics, and even some dangerous children’s toys.
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According to investigations, NYC has fallen short in their efforts to eliminate the issue. The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has been negligent in their inspections since 2012 and even falsified reports to the federal government to cover up.
NYCHA failed to inspect some 55,000 apartments in aging buildings with potential lead paint hazards—some 4,300 listing children six years old and under as tenants. Mayor De Blasio himself was informed of “the possibility of non-compliance” way back in March 2016.
And now, to add insult to injury, in their mad dash to fix their errors, NYCHA decided to use all means necessary—even if that meant breaking into residents' homes. One such area was Pomonok Houses in Queens, where tenants were informed that, even if they were not home, NYCHA would "exercise the right to enter" anyway by removing locks.
The fact that so many young children are at risk for serious health consequences by this toxic interloper means that all the authorities involved need to step up their game, and in the meantime, parents must take extra precautions.
We need to investigate how this could have possibly happened, hold our officials accountable for their mistakes and cover-ups and make a plan to keep this city safe for everyone.