NYC Lead Poisoning Cases Drop

Although New York City is seeing some progress regarding a drop in <"">lead poisoning cases, recent findings indicate children of color still suffer from lead poisoning at higher rates than other groups.

According to 2008 data, said EMaxHealth, 85 percent of the children identified as having been diagnosed with lead poisoning were either black, Hispanic, or Asian, with Hispanic and black children comprising the bulk of new cases. Regarding Asian children as compared to other groups, Asian children with lead poisoning tend to be older, born outside of the United States, and likely exposed to lead in other countries, said EMaxHealth.

Meanwhile, the overall number of lead poisoning cases in children dropped by 19 percent in New York City in 2008, according to information announced by the Health Department in its’ annual report to the New York City Council, reported EMaxHealth. Last year’s figures indicate 1,572 newly identified cases of lead poisoning among children from six months and to six years of age pointed to a 92 percent decline since 1995; that year saw about 20,000 lead poisoning cases, according to EMaxHealth.

“The new number marks a new low for New York City,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City Health Commissioner, quoted EMaxHealth. “But it also shows that childhood poisoning remains a serious, preventable health problem. Lead paint is the main cause of lead poisoning, and young children are most at risk. It’s critically important that landlords safely repair peeling lead paint in homes with young children. It’s also the law,” Dr. Farley added.

Exposure to lead in children can cause brain and nervous system damage, behavioral and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems, headaches, mental and physical retardation, and behavioral and other health problems. Lead is also known to cause cancer and reproductive harm. Once poisoned by lead, no organ system is immune. Of particular concern is the developing brain because negative influences can have long-lasting effects and can continue well into puberty and beyond.

EMaxHealth explained that lead poisoning is defined when blood levels are measured at 10 or more micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (ug/dl). State law mandates physicians test young children—one-to-two years of age—since patients with elevated lead levels may not always exhibit symptoms, added EMaxHealth.

Last year, of the 536 children newly diagnosed with blood levels at or exceeding 15 ug/dl, the majority—446—were between six months and six years of age, said EMaxHealth. This level is known as the Environmental Intervention Blood Lead Level, known as the EIBLL, explained EMaxHealth, which noted that, at this level, the Health Department intervenes to determine the origin of lead paint in the patient and mandates landlords repair any such hazards safely and quickly. There has been a 14 percent decline in EIBLL cases in the past two years—2007 saw 620—and a 69 percent decline from 1709 in 1995, said EMaxHealth.

EMaxHealth suggests parents remind doctors to test children for lead poisoning at one and two years of age, as well as older, at risk children; report peeling paint to landlords, and if no positive response is received, call 311; frequently wash floors, windowsills, hands, toys, and pacifiers; do not use food and consumer products known to contain lead; and use cold tap water, that has run for a few minutes, to make formula or cook and drink.

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