New York City reports decline in childhood lead poisoning

June 15, 2007

NEW YORK CITY - June 15, 2007 - Although childhood lead poisoning remains a serious problem, the number of new cases identified in 2006 marks the lowest level in more than a decade. The number of new cases identified in 2006 - 2,310 among children ages 6 months to 6 years - marks a 13% decline from 2005 and an 88% decline since 1995, when nearly 20,000 children were newly identified with lead poisoning. Lead poisoning is defined as a blood-lead level greater than or equal to 10 μg/dL (micrograms per deciliter).

The number of cases is falling even as health care providers expand testing of one- and two-year-old children, as required by state law. In 2006, an estimated 76% of one-year-olds and 65% of two-year-olds were tested for lead poisoning, versus 72% and 60%, respectively, in 2005. The Health Department actively promotes blood lead testing among healthcare providers, especially in high-risk neighborhoods.

"We want to make lead poisoning a thing of the past in New York City," said Nancy Clark, Assistant Commissioner for Environmental Disease Prevention. "Peeling lead paint, particularly on doors and windows, is the primary cause of lead poisoning and young children are the most at risk group for lead poisoning. Lead poisoning can cause learning and behavioral problems so it's critical to have your doctor test them at their first and second birthdays."

While there has been tremendous progress, lead poisoning remains a serious public health problem, especially in Brooklyn. While only 34% of New York City children (age 6 months to 6 years) live in Brooklyn, 43% of children newly identified with lead poisoning last year lived in Brooklyn. Brooklyn neighborhoods with the greatest number of cases include: Bedford Stuyvesant-Crown Heights, East Flatbush-Flatbush, Borough Park, Williamsburg-Bushwick and East New York.

Of the remaining children with lead poisoning, 22% live in Queens, mostly in West Queens, Jamaica and Southwest Queens; 17% in the Bronx, mostly in Fordham-Bronx Park, Crotona-Tremont and High Bridge-Morrisania; 14% in Manhattan, mostly in Washington Heights-Inwood, Central Harlem-Morningside Heights and Union Square-Lower East Side; and 3% in Staten Island, mostly in Stapleton-St. George. The Health Department focuses prevention activities on these neighborhoods, hoping to raise awareness and reduce exposure to lead hazards.

"Prevention of childhood lead poisoning requires the participation of parents, landlords, doctors and other community members," Assistant Commissioner Clark said. "Landlords must comply with the law and correct lead hazards. Parents should report peeling paint in their homes to their landlords, who are responsible to fix these conditions. If landlords fail to make safe repairs, parents should call 311."

The Health Department provides environmental investigation and case coordination services to children with blood-lead levels at or above the Environmental Intervention Blood Lead Level (EIBLL), which has been set at 15 μg/dL. The Department makes home visits, tests for lead paint, orders building owners to make repairs, and educates families and healthcare providers about medical follow-up and exposure reduction. In 2006, 800 children up to the age of 18 years, including 667 children ages 6 months to less than 6 years, were newly identified at or above the EIBLL. Overall, there was a 9% decline since 2005, when 875 children up to the age of 18 years were newly with BLLs greater than or equal to 15 μg/dL (EIBLL).

Parents and Caregivers Can Protect their Children from Lead Poisoning

-end-
For more information on preventing childhood lead poisoning, see the NYC Health Department's latest Health Bulletin at www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/public/dohmhnews6-03.pdf or a brochure for lead and pregnancy at www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/lead/lead-pregnancy-brochure.pdf.

New York City Health Department

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