Senator Charles Schumer announced a new bill this week that would provide tax credits for homeowners and landlords who replace lead-based infrastructure in their buildings. The proposed legislation would expand existing tax credits, which only granted the funding to households built before 1960, with a child under six years of age or pregnant woman present. It would provide $3,000, and would be available to any homeowner making $110,000 or less annually.
Senator Schumer cited a study showing that 13 percent of Western New York children, five years of age or younger, tested for lead poisoning – a rate three times that of Flint, Michigan, whose recent water contamination crisis has attracted attention around the country. In some places, such as Fulton County, the number reaches as high as 24.7%.
Any home built before 1980 could contain lead, and much of Upstate and Western New York contains aged infrastructure. Some 42.9 percent of the state’s housing stock predates 1950 alone, much of it concentrated in upstate localities. These older structures utilized lead-based paint and pipes, which can erode and settle, ultimately winding up on children’s hands and, potentially their mouths.
Lead poisoning can wreak irreversible damage, often causing significant developmental defects. High rates of lead poisoning have led the Center for Disease Control to revise its estimates of harmful lead exposure down, from 10 micrograms per deciliter to five. Earlier estimates, they concluded, overestimated children’s tolerance for the substance. Despite this change, New York State, still uses 10 micrograms as the baseline for toxic exposure.
Earlier this week, the ongoing problem of lead contamination in Upstate New York sparked fears after an Ithaca School District discovered high levels of the toxin in its water supply. The schools, which had not tested their water in 11 years, shut off their entire supply.