Devastating Health Risk for Upstate NY Kids Sparks Major Federal Funding Boost
In a bold move to combat a hidden danger lurking in certain homes, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand unveiled a multimillion-dollar lifeline.
The major federal investment allocates roughly $4 million to eradicate lead paint in Utica's aging homes.
Lead paint was banned in 1978, but there are still plenty of structures in Central New York that still have it on their walls.
What the new funds will do
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand jointly announced $3,974,989 will be made available to the city of Utica.
The money will be dispersed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Program.
The money will prioritize establishing more affordable housing geared toward low income families with young kids who live in or frequent pre-1978 properties.
Children residing in such homes face an elevated risk of lead paint exposure.
Said Senator Schumer:
No amount of toxic lead exposure is safe for the children of Utica. For years, Utica has been among the highest for exposure to lead... Lead poisoning is an irreversible, preventable tragedy that robs many families and children of their future.
The funds will be directed to Lead Safe Utica’s 2022 Lead Hazard Reduction & Healthy Homes Program. The plan highlighted 88 units in the city that were flagged for intervention due to lead or other health and safety hazards.
Per the release, the funding will also assist in these measures:
- Complete HUD funded lead hazard control and healthy homes interventions in 88 units
- Deliver 80 Post Remediation Kits to participants to better maintain lead safety over time
- Provide 98 free lead inspection risk assessments for owners to identify lead hazards
- Refer program units to Weatherization/Energy Efficiency to achieve measures in 75 units
- Perform leverage funded housing rehabilitation interventions in 44 program units
- Provide 150 free Lead Worker training and certification to residents and contractors
- Conduct 75 outreach and education events
The dangers of lead exposure
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, young kids exposed to lead can suffer brain or nervous system damage. The toxic chemical has also been found to slow a child's growth and development.
Additionally, it can cause problems in a child's hearing, learning, behavior and speech.
Lead paint is known to flake off walls in chips or leave dust particles that can cover floors, toys, windowsills and more. A child is exposed whenever they ingest, swallow or breathe in lead paint or lead dust.
Furthermore, children can be exposed when playing on soil contaminated with the toxic metal.
Per the CDC:
No safe level of lead in children has been identified. Even low levels of lead in blood can hurt a child’s ability to learn, pay attention, and do well in school.
Even though lead paint was banned in 1978, there are numerous structures that have yet to remove it, especially in Oneida County.
Lead poisoning levels in Central NY
Utica has some of the highest levels of lead poisoning in the Empire State.
The New York State Department of Health said in 2020, roughly 200 children under the age of six in Utica were poisoned by lead paint.
Utica is said to have the fifth highest incidence rate for children with high blood lead levels. Almost 20 percent of children who had their blood tested were found to have elevated levels of lead in their system.
The numbers were said to be more than four times higher than the state average.
There are at least 6,812 occupied rental properties built prior to 1940 in the city. As for the number of occupied structures built prior to 1978, the total stands at 22,027.
Said Senator Gillibrand:
Too many children in Utica are exposed to lead paint, which jeopardizes their health, development and futures. Residents of Utica deserve to live in a home that is free of hazardous lead paint.
Mayor Robert Palmieri said lead paint removal needs to be one of the city's top priorities. He said preventative measures over the past six years have already cut the rate of local children showing elevated blood levels by roughly 40 percent.
Eventually, the vision is to eradicate all traces of lead paint from the city.
You can read more about this latest round in federal funding in the official press release.
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