NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — More than 800 children under the age of 6 living in New York City Housing Authority units have tested positive for elevated levels of lead between 2012 and 2016, far more than first believed.
The new statistics have parents concerned and outraged.
“They tell you what they want to tell you,” said Treasure Liggins, a parent who fears her children may have been exposed to lead.
According to the city, the 820 children had lead levels between 5 to 9 micrograms per deciliter, which is the level that the federal Center for Disease Control recommends that cities intervene.
But none of the children’s apartments were inspected because New York City does not require home visits unless the child tests over 10 micrograms.
“They try to hush it up,” said Liggins. “They try to bypass things, get over on people
The new numbers come amid a firestorm of accusations against NYCHA of mismanagement and negligence.
Probes by the city’s Department of Investigation and federal prosecutors found that between 2012 and 2016, the city was not testing for lead paint as they claimed.
“Everybody should go and have their children tested to make sure look around the apartment,” said Lisa Kenner, president of the Van Dyke Houses Resident Association.
Community leaders are now urging parents to be proactive.
On the phone with NY1 on Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city did notify all 820 families of those children but admits inspections of all homes is only starting this year.
“The highest, most stringent level is five micrograms,” said de Blasio. “It’s actually a very low level of exposure but what the federal government said is when you see that level, act quickly to try and make sure nothing happens.”
His spokesman cited a statement which says, in part; “Lead poisoning is down almost 90% since 2005. But that’s not good enough. We’ve already made our testing protocols more strict for kids in public housing and we are now extending that standard to the entire City. It’s our job to always push the envelope when it comes to our kids’ health.”
City officials are now saying they will conduct inspections in the homes of all children under the age of 18 who fall within that 5 microgram threshold.
NYCHA community activists aren’t buying it.
“We are calling the federal government to apply the necessary criminal charges against those responsible,” activist Tony Herbertt said.
NYCHA is also awaiting a court-appointed monitor to oversee $2 billion in funds set aside to address building repairs and lead abatement.