The number and rate of New York City children with elevated blood lead levels are at a historic low
Since 2005, there has been a nearly 90% decrease in the number of New York City children under 6 with blood lead levels of 5 mcg/dL or greater
April 24, 2019 — As part of LeadFreeNYC, the Health Department today released its latest Childhood Blood Lead Level Surveillance Quarterly Report covering all four quarters of 2018. In 2018, 351,486 children younger than 18 in New York City were tested for lead exposure. Of the children tested, 4,717 (1.3%) had a blood lead level of 5 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL) or higher — that is 600 fewer children citywide than in 2017, or an 11% decline. Among children who lived or spent time in NYCHA housing, there was a 14% decline, from 160 cases in 2017 to 138 cases in 2018.
“The number of New York City children with elevated blood lead levels continues to fall to historic lows, but we must continue to work to protect children from lead exposure,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “If you are a parent of a child under 3, contact your pediatrician to have their blood lead levels tested. If you notice peeling or damaged paint in your home, call 311 to report it.”
The quarterly report is a new Health Department initiative that complements the City’s annual blood lead level surveillance report. In July, the City announced a more stringent measure to reduce childhood lead exposure and became one of the first jurisdictions in the country to conduct environmental investigations for all children under 18 years old with a blood lead level of 5 mcg/dL or greater. Mayor de Blasio also announced in January the LeadFreeNYC plan, a comprehensive roadmap to end childhood lead exposure.
Quarterly Data Highlights:
The Health Department, through its Healthy Homes and Environmental Health Assessment and Communication Programs, has developed a comprehensive approach to address elevated blood lead levels in children and adults and to reduce lead hazards in homes and communities. This approach includes follow-up investigations of individuals with elevated blood lead levels, environmental interventions and enforcement activities, education and outreach, surveillance and research.
New York City also has one of the highest testing rates in the state — more than 80% of New York City children are tested at least once before their third birthday. The Health Department collaborates with Medicaid Managed Care Plan to improve testing and do annual reminders to health care providers.
In January, Mayor de Blasio announced the LeadFreeNYC plan. The approach is twofold: prevent exposure to lead hazards in the first place and respond quickly and comprehensively if a child has an elevated blood lead level. To protect New York City kids, the City will increase resources and support for children, parents, and health care providers to make sure every child under 3 is tested for lead exposure – and any child who does test positive gets the services they need. A new website, LeadFreeNYC, provides information and guidance for parents, tenants, landlords, and all New Yorkers. The website includes data and progress on the City’s lead prevention initiatives and includes educational materials to help New Yorkers understand the dangers of the lead and the tools available to anyone who may have been exposed to lead.
Lead poisoning is preventable. Avoid exposure.
A blood test is the only way to find out if you or your child has an elevated blood lead level. 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.
MEDIA CONTACT: Patrick Gallahue/Michael Lanza, (347) 396-4177