Albany, NY – As members of the New York State Senate heard testimony about childhood lead poisoning, Citizen Action of New York released a video, “New York Children Are Being Poisoned by Lead,” exposing the severity of New York’s childhood lead poisoning crisis. In Buffalo, there are neighborhoods where children test positive for lead poisoning at rates eight times higher than the children in Flint, Michigan during the height of their water crisis. In New York City, many public housing units are still contaminated with poison lead and need significant investments for remediation. Childhood lead poisoning has continued in New York due to structural racism and a lack of willpower by our government to eradicate it and protect Black and brown children in disadvantaged communities.
Any amount of lead in a child’s system can cause irreversible damage. Large amounts can cause organ failure and other life-threatening illnesses, and even low levels of exposure can cause behavioral and developmental issues in children. In the video, Oceanna shares her family’s story of being generationally harmed by lead poisoning, with both her adult brother and young granddaughter facing developmental challenges as a result. Oceanna testified at the public hearing along with Citizen Action Vice President Jim Anderson. Citizen Action, a grassroots membership organization with thousands of active members, is calling on New York State to pass legislation that would establish mandatory lead inspection and remediations statewide.
“We cannot continue to have a system where children are the testing strips for lead contamination. I am asking for the state to hold cities and towns responsible when they don’t do these inspections, and step in and take control when this happens. I am asking the state to include in the budget a large amount of money for cities and towns to use for inspectors and to provide assistance for remediation when needed. The Black and brown children of my city and of this state should not be the population that is deprioritized once again during the 2022 legislative session. Quite simply, I am asking that the state do what it should have done decades ago: end this crisis of lead poisoning and end it now, so that another generation of children of color and children in poverty don’t start their lives with health problems that ensure that they never even have a chance to reach their potential,” said Jim Anderson, vice president of Citizen Action of New York and Buffalo resident.
“The way it works now is that a child gets poisoned first and then the home is inspected for lead. There is no state law that requires automatic testing for homes that are known to be contaminated, and even when lead is detected landlords don’t always follow through with repairs. A statewide mandate for lead inspections would ensure all homes are inspected and made safe for our children to live in,” said Genevieve Rand, Citizen Action statewide housing campaigns manager.
“Oceana’s family’s trauma shows the consequences of our government’s failure to take action against lead poisoning. We are proud to be in coalition with the Center for Law and Justice, the Alliance for Quality Education and other progressive groups fighting to address the lead crisis head-on. New York needs legislation that will protect children from being exposed to lead and hold property owners accountable when they fail to address exposure that happens at their properties. This is why we also need Good Cause eviction at the state level, because it would shield tenants from retaliatory evictions by landlords who refuse to make repairs,” said Ivette Alfonso, Citizen Action president and Albany resident.