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Childhood Lead Exposure Has Fallen 11% Compared to 2017

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:

  • During the fourth quarter (October, November, December) of 2018:
    • 982 children under age 18 citywide had a blood lead level of 5 mcg/dL or higher, a 12% reduction compared to 1,116 children during the same time period in 2017.
    • 29 children who live or spend time in NYCHA housing had a blood lead level of 5 mcg/dL or higher, compared to 35 children during the same time period in 2017.
  • Overall, rates of childhood lead exposure in New York City are at all-time lows. Since 2005, there has been a nearly 90% decrease in the number of New York City children under 6 years old with blood lead levels of 5 mcg/dL or greater (representing 33,000 fewer children).

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.

About LeadFreeNYC

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.

  • Building owners are required to safely fix peeling paint. Report peeling or damaged paint to your building owner. If they do not fix it, or work is done unsafely (e.g. dust is not contained while they work), you can report the problem online ( or by calling 311.
  • Keep children away from peeling paint and renovations.
  • Wash floors and windowsills often. Wash hands and toys of children under 6.
  • Remove shoes before entering your home.
  • If someone in your household works in construction, wash work clothes separately from the family laundry.
  • Learn more about avoiding products that may contain lead, such as imported pottery, food and cosmetics, and traditional medicines. Visit

Get tested.

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.

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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