NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Mayor Bill de Blasio is waging a war on childhood exposure to lead paint, promising a “Lead Free NYC” plan to screen every apartment for hazards.
After the 2018 scandal that revealed lead exposure cases in NYCHA buildings were tremendously under-reported by the mayor’s office, De Blasio claims he’s now determined to get the lead out.
While cracked, peeling and rotted-out paint is all too often the norm in public housing projects, the mayor vowed to eliminate lead paint everywhere.
“Today we make clear that New York City commits to zero lead in our city,” de Blasio said. “This is a ‘Vision Zero’ approach.”
The sudden turnaround comes after the mayor falsely said only 17 children had tested positive for lead poisoning before quietly revealing in July there were actually 820 positive lead tests since 2012. That number eventually rose to 1,160. The shame-faced mayor then pinned the blame on former Mayor Michael Bloomberg last summer.
As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported last year, it’s fair to say lead inspections stopped in 2013 when Bloomberg was in office. It’s also fair to say it’s the de Blasio administration – and only the de Blasio administration – that wasn’t forthcoming about the real number of children affected.
For the first time on Monday, the city said it will screen every apartment, public or private, for potential lead hazards. The city also promised to eliminate lead paint in homeless shelters and seek to eliminate lead in toys and other consumer goods children use.
The mayor’s plan, developed by his new “lead czar,” Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, sets the following benchmark goals:
- Require annual inspections of apartments and one and two family homes.
- Provide immediate blood level testing for children in any home where a lead hazard is identified.
- Provide a dedicated nurse to any child with an elevated lead blood level.
- Test all 135,000 NYCHA apartments where lead has not been ruled out.
- Publish a lead products index of all consumer goods like spices and ceramics that contain lead.
“The biggest problem, as I mentioned, is in private housing. In fact, about 97 percent of children with elevated lead levels live in private housing in this city,” de Blasio said.
“That is why we will be working with the council to require annual inspection of one and two family homes for the first time, protecting more children under six,” said Garcia.
City officials estimate the new program will be in place within two years.
The city will launch a $4 million ad campaign to promote lead testing and raise awareness of free water testing. The city will also provide free, clean topsoil to community gardens and test NYCHA playgrounds.