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Eradicating Lead Poisoning through in New York City

New York City has a new goal: Get levels of lead exposure down to zero. Lead paint in apartments can cause neurological problems in children. Now, a new multi-agency initiative is ramping up inspections in all five boroughs.


Mayor Bill de Blasio kicked off a new initiative called LeadFreeNYC last month, which focuses on getting lead exposure levels down to 0. In New York City, lead usually comes from paint in homes. Education outreach programs for private landlords and building managers are a major component of the initiative. Reporter Cynthia Betubiza has more.  

BETUBIZA 1: New York City banned lead-based paint in 1960. But still today, there are a lot of buildings with  this paint on their walls.

And when that paint chips or peels– people ingest the lead, which can lead to  neurological and behavioral delays and changes in kids, including lower IQs.

City governments usually leave it up to private landlords and building managers to care of the problem through lead inspection and removal.

Art Morales is the owner of the private inspection company Enviro Test. He says the city shouldn’t assume too much about landlords’ lead knowledge.

MORALES 1: “You know I’ve been doing this for 24 years and a lot of people have no idea about the lead issue.. some landlords are well read about it, others like to ignore it and I’d say others are oblivious.”  

BETUBIZA 2: That’s why the city kicked off a new initiative called LeadFreeNYC at the end of January. It’s a three pronged approach: The city’s requiring more landlords to inspect their units. They’re targeting more high-risk buildings. And they’re creating extensive educational outreach programs for landlords and building managers, as Mayor de Blasio described at a press conference launching the initiative.

DE BLASIO 1: We’re going to educate the small landlords. Look, these are mom-and-pop operations. They’re doing their best. I’m sure they want to follow the law, but they’re probably need to be given a chance to understand it, and how they can go about it, and where they can get help.

BETUBIZA 3: Under the new initiative, The Department of Housing Preservation and Development held a workshop last week in their office in downtown Manhattan. A group of about 20 building managers, landlords, and maintenance workers heard about ID and eradicate lead.

Yomaris Smith manages a building in  of Washington Heights.

YOMARIS 1: “Right now I’m trying to manage a building, that’s why I’m looking into learning more about lead problem because I want to make sure that the children in are safe and will not have the problem of having lead in their blood.”

BETUBIZA 4: Smith says that the city needs to do a lot more besides education.

YOMARIS 2: “More inspections, create more funds that they can help building owners that don’t have enough funds to do all these procedures because it takes a lot of money to have the inspection.  

BETUBIZA 5: Dr. David E. Jacobs is the Chief Scientist at the National Center for Healthy Housing. He agrees more resources can be allocated to other parts of LeadFreeNYC.

JACOBS 1: I think what we really need is additionally resources so that property owners and landlords can access funding to carry out both the inspections for lead paint as well as mitigation.

BETUBIZA 6: The total initiative a multi-agency effort, so the roll-out has a lot of moving parts. Today, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene officially launches the LeadFreeNYC website.

For Columbia Radio News, Cynthia Betubiza.


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