Physicians, Parents, Schools all Need to Work Together to Protect New York Children from Lead Poisoning
Albany, September 19 -- Health Commissioner Barbara A. DeBuono, M.D., said today that physicians, parents and school officials must work together to protect children from lead poisoning.
Dr. DeBuono announced that the Health Department is mounting a statewide outreach and public education campaign to alert homeowners and others who are planning home renovations and remodeling to help minimize children's exposure to lead dust and paint chips. Among the steps:
Painting supply retailers will be asked to display a counter-top, point-of-purchase card with information on lead-paint hazards, the need for care in removing lead-based paint, and a referral to the hotline for additional information. Retailers will be asked to distribute copies of DOH's brochure, "Get Ahead of Lead: What Homeowners Need to Know About Removing Lead-Based Paint."
Contractors' associations and building trade unions will be asked to distribute lead-paint fact sheets to their members; to exhibit a poster version of the counter-top cards; and, to distribute copies of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's booklet, "Reducing Lead Hazards When Remodeling Your Home" to their members.
Realtors and other housing-related organizations will be asked to exhibit the poster or counter-top card in their offices and to distribute the "Get Ahead of Lead" brochure to all purchasers of homes built before 1979.
Local Health Units and county Cooperative Extension agencies will be asked to distribute the "Get Ahead of Lead" brochure to their clients and to include lead poisoning prevention information in their health education and/or home improvement efforts.
Radio stations will be asked to air public service announcements that provide information on lead-paint hazards and the need for care in removing lead-based paint, and that refer listener's to the Health Department's hotline.
The Health Department operates a toll-free number (1-800-458-1158) for New Yorkers to get more information and free brochures about reducing lead hazards while remodeling.
"The number of children who are tested for lead poisoning has increased from 484,000 in 1994 to 570,000 in 1995," Dr. DeBuono said. "The improvement, while significant, is not enough. All 1- and 2-year-old children in New York State are required to be screened for lead poisoning as part of routine pediatric care -- and it should be as routine as immunizations.
"The screenings done so far have helped us pinpoint areas where incidents of lead poisoning are higher," Dr. DeBuono said. "This will help us target our resources to areas of greatest need. We also are working to raise awareness of the lead-screening requirement with physicians, who perform the screenings, and parents, who want to be aware of factors that could affect their children's health and development. Schools, too, must be given information about pupils' test results."
Dust and chips from lead-based paint are dangerous when swallowed or inhaled, especially for small children and pregnant women. Lead can affect a child's developing nervous system, causing reduced IQ and learning disabilities. Children most at risk are those under age 6.
Hundreds of children are poisoned each year from lead in dust particles from home renovation and remodeling projects. Paint chips are not the only hazard; dust is a significant problem, too. Sanding, scraping and removal of building components can generate large amounts of dust from lead-based paint.
"A lead-poisoned child can come from a tenement as well as from an expensive Victorian home undergoing renovation," Dr. DeBuono said. "Any renovation work performed by an inexperienced owner or contractor can generate lead dust and fumes."
Chances are that a home built before 1979 has surfaces painted with lead-based paint. Lead was used in pigments to make brighter, more durable paint. More than 90 percent of New York's housing stock, or more than 6 million units, was built before 1979. DOH research has found that the majority of children with confirmed blood lead levels of greater than or equal to 20 micrograms per deciliter were exposed to lead during remodeling or renovation work performed by home or building owners, tenants and people not employed as contractors. In the past decade, the residential remodeling industry as grown more than 130 percent nationwide, with an estimated value of more than $130 billion a year.
9/19/96-111 OPAContact: Claudia Hutton, Director, Public Affairs (518) 474-7354
New York State Department of Health Posted 9/24/96