Group warns of lead threat in boro homes

By Philip Newman

More than 130,000 New York City children are in danger from poisonous lead paint with Queens second only to Brooklyn in the numbers of youngsters whose health is threatened, a consumer advocacy group warned last week.

The New York Public Interest Research Group report brought demands from city council members and community activists for passage of legislation strengthening the laws governing lead paint.

“Even though my district may be low on the totem pole of numbers of children poisoned by lead as compared to some others, I believe that even one child suffering this poisoning is one too many,” Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said last Thursday.

“Let us forget our council district lines when it comes to taking care of this terrible problem,” he said.

Landlords have already expressed opposition to the legislation as too expensive.

“But can the landlords sleep easy knowing it is an issue that has a direct bearing on a child’s health?” asked Addabbo, who spoke at a news conference at City Hall just steps from where the report was released. “Costly? Yes. But what is more important? Maybe the city could work with landlords to come up with some financial help.”

More than 43 percent of the city’s children poisoned by lead paint live in Brooklyn, compared with 23 percent in Queens, 21 percent in the Bronx and 3 percent in Staten Island.

Some speakers in front of City Hall even suggested that it amounted to racism to permit the situation to persist since 94 percent of the children involved were black, Hispanic or Asian.

“Pass 101! Pass 101!” chanted activists, most of whom hailed from Bushwick, Brooklyn, an area where more than 3,100 children are reported at risk. They demonstrated at the conclusion of the news conference at which the NYPIRG report “Do You Know Where the Lead Is?” was released last week. The proposed legislation is designated Introduction 101.

The NYPIRG report said that from 1995 to 2000, a total of 136,404 children in the five boroughs had been poisoned by lead paint. Those designated as poisoned had what the federal Centers for Disease Control calls a lead content of 10 micrograms per deciliter. Hundreds of poisoned children registered a toxicity twice that high.

The data said that more than 40 years after New York City banned the use of lead-based paint in residential dwellings, thousands of children are still exposed to lead. The dried paint in older, poorly maintained buildings turns to powder or flakes, falls from ceilings and walls and is often inhaled or taken into the mouth by children.

New York State law requires every child to be tested at ages 1 and 2 and 3 to 5 to determine whether they are at risk from lead paint.

“The report shows that even though the numbers are declining, thousands of kids are still being poisoned, even since passage of the current lead law, Local Law 38,” said Councilman Bill Perkins (D-Harlem), chief sponsor of the proposed new anti-lead law.

“The current law is simply not strong enough,” Perkins said. “We have to do more to protect these children.”

The following lists the Queens City Council districts, their council members and the number of children at risk in each district: CD 27-LeRoy Comrie (D-St. Albans), 1,528; CD 28-Allen Jennings (D-Jamaica), 1,482; CD 21-Hiram Monserrate (D-Corona), 1,438; CD 31-James Sanders (D-Laurelton), 1,396; CD 30-Dennis Gallagher (R-Middle Village), 1,165; CD 25-Helen Sears (D-Jackson Heights), 1,025; CD 32-Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), 990; CD 25-Eric Gioia, (D-Woodside), 907; CD 22-Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), 888; CD 24-James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) 685; CD 29-Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills), 605; CD 23-David Weprin (D-Hollis), 478; CD 19-Anthony Avella (D-Whitestone), 348.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at [email protected] or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.