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Empire Justice Center Praises State Senate For Acting to Stop Thousands of Children from Being Poisoned by Lead in their Homes Each Year
For Immediate Release
August 8, 2008
Contact: Michael Hanley, (585) 454-4060
Empire Justice Center advocates applauded the State Senate today for passing the Childhood Lead Poisoning Primary Prevention and Safe Housing Act (S.6350/A.6399), a landmark bill to identify housing with lead hazards and provide tax credits to prevent thousands of children in New York from being permanently and irreversibly damaged by lead poisoning. Currently over 5,000 children are identified as lead poisoned each year, and thousands more go undetected.
Until now, a mother essentially had to wait for her child to be poisoned by lead before the local health department would look at the housing for lead hazards. As a result, especially in older urban neighborhoods, there were situations where ten to fifteen percent of the children tested were poisoned by lead. Neither city inspectors nor health officials were looking for lead hazards until it was already too late. This legislation addresses that problem by requiring “primary prevention” plans in high risk areas.
"Senator Robach deserves much credit for making sure the Senate passed a bill identical to the Assembly’s version during this Special Session to allow the State to move forward quickly to protect more children from being poisoned unnecessarily. Assemblymember Gantt deserves our thanks for having supported this bill from the beginning" said Michael Hanley, an attorney from the Empire Justice Center who has worked with the Rochester Area Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning.
Although lead poisoning rates statewide have dropped to below 1% of the children in some zip codes, 15% to 20% of the children screened are still being poisoned by lead. Even worse, many neighborhoods may still have poisoning rates of 30% or higher. Only 22 zip codes in New York (out of over 1600) account for nearly 40% of the children poisoned by lead outside of New York City.
Once signed into law by Governor Paterson, this legislation will build upon a “pilot program” recently undertaken by the State Department of Health (DOH) in an effort to reach these areas with concentrations of high-risk housing. The bill will provide DOH and local communities with the tools to make sure that the remaining “high risk” areas of the state will finally be addressed. “We don’t need to worry about all seven million housing units in New York State, we know the concentrated areas where the problem remains, and this bill will help target resources much more effectively. It also gives community advocates the tools to get involved and to monitor progress," noted Mr. Hanley.
“This is a monumental day. We will be excited to see the Governor sign the bill so communities can begin planning to focus on finally eliminating these lead hazards in their homes” concluded Kristin Brown Lilley, Director of Legislative Advocacy.