May 6, 2015

Press Release # 021-15
Wednesday, May 6, 2015

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Christopher Miller/Levi Fishman:

Health Department Launches New Lead Dust Notification Procedures

New York City has made tremendous progress in reducing childhood lead poisoning; new procedures build on our past success

New York City has made tremendous progress in reducing childhood lead poisoning, with a 71 percent decline in the rate of children with elevated blood lead levels (10 mcg/dL), from 8.6/1,000 tested in 2005 to 2.5 in 2013. This success is the result of strong policies and a proactive and comprehensive approach to lead poisoning prevention, including enforcement actions against building owners or contractors who create potentially hazardous lead dust conditions through unsafe work practices.

To build on this success, the Health Department announced today new procedures to notify tenants about dust hazards from unsafe construction work in common areas in their building. These new efforts are designed to increase transparency and provide timely information to building occupants on inspection results.

“The health and wellbeing of New Yorkers is of the utmost importance to us, and when we receive reports of unsafe work practices that might be creating a lead dust hazard, we take the matter very seriously,” said the Health Department’s First Deputy Commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “These new procedures will add another layer of accountability for building owners to act responsibly when their buildings are being renovated.”

Currently, if a Health Department inspector sees construction dust in the common area of a building, they will stop the work and order the owner and contractor to clean the area and use safe work practices, such as wet methods to reduce dust, regular cleaning during work, and using plastic barriers to minimize dust dispersion. Dust samples will also be taken by the inspector and be tested for lead. Under the new procedures, tenants will be notified of these actions by a sign posted in a conspicuous location that will alert tenants that the Health Department found dust hazards from renovation work. The sign will also include a phone number that tenants can call for more information on the inspection results or to report additional complaints.

“In buildings across my district, tenants were potentially exposed to toxic lead dust, and didn’t even know it until months later,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron. “Cases like these should never arise, but when they do, tenants shouldn’t have to beg to know if they and their families are put at risk. The policies we worked to implement with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to post a visible sign notifying tenants of lead dust exposure and telling them how to get test results is a step in the right direction in our broader effort to protect tenants, increase transparency, and hold landlords accountable. I will continue to work with DOHMH, tenant advocacy groups, and my colleagues to protect families from lead dust exposure and chronic tenant harassment."

"Lead dust hazards pose a serious threat to the health and safety of New Yorkers exposed to them,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “While much good work has been done to reduce childhood lead poisoning, there is more that can be done and these new lead dust notification procedures are an important step for families throughout New York City. Thank you to Commissioner Bassett and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for launching this program."

"In Lower Manhattan, we have seen incidents of lead dust exceeding hundreds of times the legal limit from unsafe construction work in buildings that have endangered the lives of our constituents. These new procedures are an important step to improving protections for our tenants,” said Council Member Margaret Chin. “We are grateful to the Department of Health for their continued vigilance in monitoring lead levels in our district, and to the Commission for launching this new program."

"As the proud author of Local Law 1 of 2004 in New York City, I am heartened that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is poised to expand upon essential protections provided to our residents in launching these new lead dust notification procedures,” said State Senator Bill Perkins. “Ensuring that every inch of multiple dwellings, including common areas are covered by the law—in consonance with providing inspection results directly to residents, as well as establishing a dedicated phone number they can call for follow up—is a welcome and proactive step. Childhood lead poisoning is a completely preventable disease that primarily affects children of color and I will not rest until we fully eradicate the threat of lead paint in our homes and in the air that our children and loved ones breathe." 

"It's critically important that residents of buildings, especially those with children, have accurate, up-to-date information when lead violations are issued and ongoing exposure may be a concern," said Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh. "I am glad DOHMH is implementing new notification requirements after conversations with concerned tenants and elected officials. We will continue our commitment to help prevent poisoning, and provide peace of mind to concerned tenants in our community and across the city."

The Health Department encourages New Yorkers to call 311 immediately if they see unsafe work conditions during building renovations.

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