On August 11 the New York City Coalition to End Lead Poisoning (NYCCELP) gathered on the steps of New York City Hall to unveil their “2022 Lead Agenda.” Members of the coalition include the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (NYLCVEF), the Citizens’ Committee for Children (CCC), the Cooper Square Committee (CSC), EarthJustice, Frankel Law Firm, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Lead Program at the Montefiore Medical Center, The Legal Aid Society, the Tenants PAC, the Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation (NMIC), New York Lawyers for Public Interests (NYLPI), and WeAct.
At its core, the coalition seeks to eliminate all sources of lead poisoning in the city because, as health experts tell us, no level of lead exposure is safe as small amounts can cause neurological damage and other health problems especially in children. Furthermore, the coalition recognizes a policy problem in that lead exposure disproportionately affects children in low-income communities and in communities of color.
The agenda the coalition presented lays out a detailed 5-step roadmap on how the city should go about reducing the level of lead exposure in the city:
- The first step outlined is to conduct a multi-agency hearing on the state of lead poisoning in New York City with an ultimate goal of determining what actions are necessary to eliminate lead exposure in children.
- The second step turns attention into action calling for city government to pass legislation that would enhance early identification of lead exposure, boost prevention, and create better enforcement of existing laws meant to eliminate lead exposure. There are four specific pieces of legislation the coalition would like to see passed –– one tightening the enforcement of landlord self-inspections; one setting a sunset date on the abatement of all lead paint on friction surfaces; one barring peeling lead-based paint hazards in common areas of residential buildings; and another requiring reporting on objections to orders for the abatement or remediation of lead conditions. Other legislation will also be pursued seeking to penalize violators of existing laws and to shift more city resources towards high-risk buildings.
- The third step the coalition proposes seeks to invest in programs and interventions that protect children from lead poisoning. Specifically, the coalition seeks to accomplish this through the use of the city’s 2022-23 budget. This would include measures funding proactive inspections, notification for tenants exposed to lead hazards, and a tool kit designed to decrease the city’s blood lead reference level from 5 ug/dL to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) recommended 3.5 ug/dL.
- The fourth step seeks to directly tackle the problem of lead in drinking water by removing lead poisoning from lead service lines (LSLs). The coalition is in favor of the city using its current inventory and map of LSLs in order to take responsibility for privately owned LSLs and to use further funding to identify potential lead hazards in LSLs whose material is “unknown” by the city.
- The fifth and final step seeks to strengthen the enforcement of existing city, state, and federal lead poisoning prevention laws. Among other things, this would further educate the city about the threats of lead poisoning and increase responsiveness to those directly affected by lead hazards.
NYLCV and the rest of the coalition looks forward to working with city government to make a real change on the serious issue of lead poisoning and believes that this comprehensive plan is the right course of action to do so.
By Augustin Aliaga