Health Department Releases First Quarterly Report On Childhood Blood Lead Level Surveillance Data

New quarterly report complements the childhood lead poisoning reports posted annually since 2005

Since 2005, there has been a nearly 90 percent decrease in the number of New York City children under 6 years old with blood lead levels of 5 mcg/dL or greater

In the first and second quarters of 2018, 98.6 percent of children tested (180,299 children) had a blood lead level of less than 5 mcg/dL. Of the 1.4 percent of children with elevated blood lead levels (5 mcg/dL or greater), just 3 percent (77 children) were living in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) housing

August 30, 2018 – The Health Department today released the new Childhood Blood Lead Level Surveillance Quarterly Report (PDF) covering the first and second quarters of 2018 (January through June). Data presented in the report reveal that the number and rate of New York City children younger than 18 years of age with a blood lead level (BLL) of 5 mcg/dL – the reference level used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify children with blood lead levels that are much higher than most children’s levels – is steadily declining. Both the number and rates of children exposed to lead fell in 2017 for children in both private and public housing. Rates of childhood lead exposure are at all-time lows.

Rates of testing for children under 3 are high across New York City. Among children born in 2013, 88 percent of children in NYCHA housing were tested by age 3, compared to 74 percent of children in private housing. This quarterly report is a companion to the Department’s annual blood lead level surveillance report (PDF).

“Childhood lead poisoning continues to decline in New York City, but all of us can play a role to protect children from exposure to lead,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “If you have peeling or damaged paint in your home, call 311.”

Data highlights

  • Since 2010, there has been a 69 percent decrease in the number of children under 18 years old with BLLs of 5 mcg/dL or greater. This decrease is evident in both children living in private housing and in children living in public housing.
  • Both the number of children and rates of lead exposure fell in 2017. The rate for children in private housing fell from 17.6 per 1,000 children tested in 2016 to 15.2 in 2017. For children in public housing, the rate of lead poisoning is even lower, dropping from 7.9 per 1,000 children tested in 2016 to 6.8 in 2017.
  • In 2017, of the 362,119 children under 18 years old tested for lead poisoning, 98.5 percent (356,802 children) had a BLL less than 5 mcg/dL. Of the remaining 5,317 children with elevated BLLs, 97 percent (5,157 children) lived in private housing, and 3 percent (160 children) lived in public housing.
  • Similar trends were observed in the first two quarters of 2018, with 98.6 percent of children (180,299 children) with a BLL less than 5 mcg/dL. There were 2,602 children younger than 18 years old with blood lead levels of 5 mcg/dL or greater. Of these, 77 children lived in public housing.
    Number and rate of children under 18 years old with blood lead levels at or above 5 mcg/dL, by year and housing type, New York City 2010-2018
    Number and rate of children under 18 years old with blood lead levels

Lead poisoning is preventable. Avoid exposure

  • Report peeling or damaged paint to your building owner. Building owners are required to safely fix peeling paint. If they do not fix the paint, you can report them online (nyc.gov/311) or by calling 311.
  • Keep children away from peeling paint and renovations.
  • Wash floors and windowsills often. Wash hands and toys of children under 6.
  • Remove shoes before entering your home.
  • If someone in your household works with lead, wash work clothes separately from the family laundry.
  • Avoid using imported products that may contain lead, such as certain spices, traditional medicines, cosmetics, pottery and toys. Visit nyc.gov/lead.

Get tested

A blood test is the only way to find out if you or your child has an elevated BLL. In New York State, children must be tested for lead poisoning at ages 1 and 2, and screened for risk up to age 6. Ask your doctor about testing older children if you think they may have been exposed to lead. Pregnant women should be assessed for lead exposure at their first prenatal visit. Call 311 for help finding a doctor or clinic.

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CONTACT: Christopher Miller/Stephanie Buhle (347) 396-4177
pressoffice@health.nyc.gov