Between 2005 and 2019, there has been a 92% decrease in the number of children with blood lead levels of 5 mcg/dL or greater among children under 6 years of age and 92% decrease among children under 18 years of age
March 8, 2021 — The Health Department today released the latest Childhood Blood Lead Level Surveillance Quarterly Report (PDF) covering the first, second and third quarters of 2020, from January through September. The number of children with elevated blood lead levels in the three quarters went from 2,970 in 2019 to 2,218 in 2020.
“Medical visits are considered essential during the COVID-19 public health emergency and taking your child to get their annual blood lead test is no different,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi. “As a father, I urge all New York City parents to maintain their children’s well-check visit schedule and have your children tested at ages 1 and 2.”
Among children under 18 who lived or spent time in NYCHA housing, the number of children with elevated blood lead levels decreased, from 93 children identified from January through September of 2019 to 51 children identified in the same period of 2020. Among children in private housing, the number of children with elevated blood lead levels went from 2,877 children identified from January through September of 2019 to 2,167 children identified in the same period of 2020.
In the first nine months of 2020, the rate of children with elevated blood lead levels associated with private housing was 11.2 per 1,000 children tested and among children who spent time in NYCHA housing, the rate was 4.4 per 1,000 children tested.
The COVID-19 pandemic has likely affected these numbers, so it is difficult to compare 2020 surveillance data to similar periods in past years.
To promote the need for blood lead level testing of children during the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency, the Health Department has issued guidance to health care providers promoting the need for testing at routine medical appointments and has sent mailings to families who had a child that missed their one- or two-year old test urging them to make an appointment. Additionally, Health Department nurses continue to monitor NYC’s childhood blood lead registry every day and make calls to families and health care providers of children who have a blood lead level of 5 mcg/dL or greater to remind them to set up and keep appointments for follow up testing.
Launched in August 2018, this quarterly report is an initiative of the Health Department and complements the City’s annual blood lead level surveillance report (PDF). In July 2018, the City announced more stringent measures 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 2019 the LeadFreeNYC plan, a comprehensive roadmap to end childhood lead exposure.
The Health Department, through its Healthy Homes and Environmental Exposure Assessment and Education 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 — 80% of New York City children are tested at least once before their third birthday. The Health Department collaborates with Medicaid Managed Care Plans to improve testing and issues annual reminders to health care providers.
In January 2019, 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 has increased 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 with an elevated blood lead level gets the services they need. The 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 lead and the tools available to anyone who may have been exposed to lead.
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 people 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