Lawmaker proposes the LEAD Act to prevent high lead exposure

Jun 1, 2017

Saying there are "no safe" levels of lead exposure, State Assemblyman Sean Ryan of Buffalo unveiled a new bill called the LEAD Act. It is designed to prevent and combat lead exposure and poisoning.    

State Assemblyman Sean Ryan unveiled a new bill called the LEAD Act.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

“Because of our older housing stock and because of our poorly maintained building, we have sky-high rates of children who test positive for lead,” stated Ryan.

Assemblyman Ryan has unveiled proposed legislation standing along Plymouth Avenue in front of former Buffalo Public School 77 on the city’s west side.

The former school building is being renovated into a housing complex, but Ryan noted construction crews must first remove all lead paint.  The west side community has high lead levels.     

Former Buffalo Public School 77 on Plymouth Avenue is being transformed into housing, but lead paint needs to be removed.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

“A recent investigation by Reuters identified four zip codes in the city of Buffalo where 40-percent of children have been exposed to lead. This is eight times higher than the rate found in Flint, Michigan during their water crisis,” Ryan explained. 

Ryan said his the proposed legislation is designed to prevent and combat lead exposure and poisoning. The law would also amend the definition of elevated lead levels. Ryan is proposing it level be raised from 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood to five.

“Back in 1992, New York State set a blood level at 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood as the action level – child tested at 10, the public health people would spring into action to ensure they were fully evaluated,” remarked Ryan.

But Ryan pointed out that 10 years later the Center for Disease Control lowered the recommended level from 10 to five micrograms.

“New York State has not changed their level to conform to with the federal levels,” Ryan said. “So the Department of Health has authorized to change the regulation to comply with the statue, to date – they have not and this continues to leave children in danger and without treatment.”

Plymouth Avenue on the city's west side with old housing stock containing lead paint.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Ryan noted Erie County has lowered the level to five micrograms in order to provide needed services and wants it to happen across the state.

Ryan said lead poisoning remains a public health crises throughout Buffalo and Erie County and it is particular high among children. 

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz joined Ryan for the announcement.

“This is the type of law that Albany needs to be passing,” remarked Poloncarz.

The effects of lead poisoning are irreversible. It can cause a number of health troubles from neurological damage, learning difficulties, behavioral and developmental issues that never go away.  

PUSH Buffalo and the Partnership for the Public Good also joined Ryan for his announcement. 

The LEAD Act, to prevent and combat lead poisoning in NYS>
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

PUSH noted the 14213 zip code on the city’s west side remains a “hot spot” for lead in old housing.

Sam Magavern, executive director of the Partnership for the Public Good, said their 264 partner organizations have made lead poisoning prevention their “top policy priorities for 2017”.

Ryan's proposed LEAD Act would expand services and medical treatment for children exposed to lead. It would also target the sources of lead. Ryan also wants the law to have homeowner’s insurance cover the cost of drug treatment for lead poisoning. His proposed bill would require lead testing at daycare facilities and ban lead in children’s jewelry.