De Blasio Administration Promises to Eliminate Childhood Lead Exposure

Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

LeadFreeNYC’s programs will be fully in place within 24 months. On January 28, 2019, Mayor Bill de Blasio along with Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, announced the LeadFreeNYC plan, a Roadmap to Eliminating Childhood Lead Exposure. The plan was put together following a 90-day review of all City agencies’ policies related to lead prevention. The plan builds upon the City’s current commitment to lowering lead exposure. The Mayor aims to use the full powers of his administration and the city agencies to meet this goal.

According to City public health data, lead paint and the dust it creates is the primary source of childhood lead exposure. The City has engaged in efforts to lower childhood lead exposures. The enactment of Local Law 1 in 2004 which grants the City expansive powers to hold landlords accountable for addressing lead hazards, played a huge part in the decline of lead exposure in the City. Despite this, the problem is not completely eliminated and more needs to be done.

To eliminate lead exposure, the City proposes to use the full power of Local Law 1 to target bad actors, by lowering the lead-paint and dust standards to remove hazards with smaller amounts of lead than ever before, focusing on high-risk neighborhoods for enforcement and outreach, and aggressively increasing the City’s oversight over construction work that poses a risk of lead dust.

The plan offers a two-fold approach to tackling childhood lead exposure. First, by preventing exposure to lead hazards, and second, by responding quickly and comprehensively if a child tests for elevated blood lead level.

The plan consists of several new programs to tackle these two approaches. Under the programs, the City will conduct inspections of apartments previously excluded from the City’s lead paint regime, expand the use of Buildings’ stop work orders when lead exposure risks are identified, test all 135,000 NYCHA apartments for lead where it has not been ruled out, and proactively test and remediate all lead sources in shelters, among other initiatives.

The City also plans to increase resources and support to ensure that every child under three is tested for lead exposure, and to provide services for a child who tests positive. The City will provide blood lead level testing to children in homes with a lead paint hazard and will provide a dedicated nurse to any child with an elevated blood lead level.

To ensure LeadFreeNYC’s goals and mission are met, the City plans to hire a Citywide Lead Compliance Officer and to expand an advisory board to include additional environmental advocates, community groups, and experts to help keep the City accountable in its mission.

The City has also launched a new website, LeadFreeNYC, which includes information and guidance on lead exposure and data on the City’s proposed lead prevention initiatives.

Mayor de Blasio stated that “New York City has driven down the number of kids exposed to lead by 90 percent, and now we will finish the mission. With LeadFreeNYC, we will target every source of exposure, every apartment and every child. We will be there for kids and parents every step of the way, until we drive this problem to zero.”

“When we started this review in October, the Mayor gave some very explicit marching orders – look at every home, every source of exposure, every child, and do it with a sense of urgency. With that, I started by reviewing what every agency was doing. What we found was that people really were doing good work on preventing lead exposure, but there were places and opportunities where we needed to strengthen that work or make it more coordinated between agencies,” stated Sanitation Commissioner Garcia.

Housing and Preservation Department Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer stated that part of HPD’s mission is to ensure the quality and safety of the city’s housing stock and protect residents. HPD works to prevent and address the hazards of lead-based paint. “[W]ith the launch of LeadFreeNYC, we will further strengthen our enforcement standards and efforts, proactively audit buildings in targeted areas, expand our outreach to owners, and make it easier for them to comply with the law,” stated Commissioner Torres-Springer.

“LeadFreeNYC brings together the right resources and coordination to take us to the next phase, accelerate our progress, and finish the work. Building on our successes, we are putting in place an aggressive set of measures to eliminate sources of lead exposure, and enhance care coordination to help children already identified with elevated blood lead levels,” stated Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio.


By: May Vutrapongvatana (May is a CityLaw intern, and a New York Law School student, Class of 2019).

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.