Pushing NYC to Fight Lead Exposure During COVID-19

For decades, NYLCV and its allies have been fighting for laws that protect the public from the harmful effects of lead poisoning. Recently passed New York City Council legislation requiring more rigorous lead testing in parks, schools, and homes is a long overdue step in the right direction. Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson have shown that when it comes to lead exposure, the health and development of our children remains a high priority today.

Given that the COVID-19 crisis has caused serious economic harm to New York City, deep budget cuts in the 2021 Fiscal Year are expected. But we can’t afford to see lead protection laws and provisions cut at a time when “stay at home” orders and school closures could unintentionally increase lead poisoning cases.

Now that many children are spending more time indoors in unsafe housing, the risk of exposure to lead-based paint hazards, including dust caused by construction, is rising. Meanwhile, blood lead testing may be down as much as 80% in New York City due to a large drop in regular well-child visits caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Once routine screening resumes, there could be an explosion of childhood lead poisoning cases due to the testing backlog and aforementioned increased risk of exposure.

Recently, a group of advocates that included NYLCV sent a letter to city leadership imploring them to assess the added threat of lead exposure created by the COVID-19 response, and to develop a plan for the FY 2021 budget to address and remediate the surge in lead poisoning cases that are likely to occur as a result of this pandemic. We hope that the city will understand how important these provisions are, and we will be working hard to ensure that they keep them in place during these unprecedented and uncertain times.