Council Introduces Legislative Package To Eliminate Lead Poisoning In Housing

Image credit: New York City Council.

City Council bills target lead levels. On May 10, 2018, Speaker Corey Johnson and 19 City Council Members introduced a package of 23 bills to eliminate lead poisoning in the five boroughs. The package of bills, the largest lead laws since 2004, seeks to strengthen, expand, and establish new protections on the city’s lead laws.

The package will require the City to conduct thorough investigations when children test positive for high lead blood levels. The most recent statistics in 2016 showed that 5,000 children tested positive for high levels or 1.65% of the one to two-year-olds tested annually by law. These numbers are down compared to 12.5% children who tested positive in 2005. The package will also require an expanded investigation process if a pregnant woman is found with high blood levels. The package also will lower what counts as elevated blood lead to 5 micrograms per deciliters to match the Centers for Disease Control standards. The current City level to trigger a mandatory investigation is three times higher.

The bills will partly focused on expanding current housing requirements. Currently, owners of multiple dwellings (3+ units) built before 1960 and some built before 1978 are required to do annual checks for lead-based paint hazards in units where a child under six resides in the unit. The current law also requires checks for lead-based paint hazards and remediation when there is an apartment turnover in a multiple dwelling built before 1960 and 1-2 family buildings used as rentals.

The bills will expand these requirements by requiring lead-based paint to be permanently removed or encapsulated from an apartment that undergoes its first vacancy that’s 5+ years from now. It will also expand periodic checks for lead-based paint hazards to 1-2 family buildings that are used as rentals, instead of just multiple dwellings, if the building was built pre-1960. Further, checks for lead-based paint hazards will be required at least once in every five years by an independent, third-party certified by EPA. Owners of multiple dwellings and 1-2 family buildings used as rentals will be required to do periodic checks of lead levels in potable water and in soil areas onsite.

The bills also target areas like parks and playgrounds by requiring periodic lead testing for public water fountains and periodic tests of soil areas in public parks and play areas.

The bills will increase the number of places the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is required to check to include child-related facilities, other units in the building occupied by children and where the lead-poisoned child spends a significant amount of time, parks and play areas that have soil and are near one of the areas previously mentioned. The bills will tighten standards for what counts as elevated blood lead levels and establish appropriate action levels for lead in paint, soil, dust, and waters and establish lead testing and remediation requirements for facilities that serve children.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson said: “We know that we can never be too vigilant when it comes to protecting our children from the dangers of lead. Although we have made great strides reducing lead poisoning cases over the past decade, there are gaps in those laws that have stopped us from truly eliminating this toxic substance from our homes, our water supply, and our soil. This package addresses those gaps and will make our children safer. These bills are truly a team effort, and I want to thank my Council colleagues for all of the hard work putting this together.”

Council Member and Chair of the Land Use Committee, Rafael Salamanca Jr. said: “These lead paint bills are crucial in addressing some of the life-threatening issues that have come to light in recent months. It’s important to not only investigate lead paint exposure inside homes and apartments, but also in public or outdoor spaces frequently used, like backyards, parks and playgrounds. We need an EPA-certified company to check soil levels to ensure that people are safe in the spaces they occupy.”

Other Council Members sponsoring bills include Daniel Dromm, Carlina Rivera, Inez Barron, Donovan Richards, Ydanis Rodriguez, Mark Treyger, Andy King, Margaret Chin, Stephen Levin, Ritchie Torres, Alicka Ampry-Samuel, Costa Constantinides, Jimmy Van Bramer, Robert Cornegy, Joseph Borelli, Robert Holden, and Mark Levine.


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