Assembly to Pass Legislation to Lower Blood Lead Level Threshold Standard for Children

Speaker Carl Heastie today announced the Assembly will pass legislation to protect the health of children in New York by lowering the statutory standard for elevated blood lead levels (BLL).

“There is nothing more important than the health and safety of our children,” said Speaker Heastie. “We know that lead is highly toxic and most harmful to children during their early years, and that is why we must set stricter thresholds for lead poisoning intervention.”

“The health and wellbeing of our children depends on us making every effort to identify lead poisoning as early as possible and at levels that reflect best practices in public health and prevention,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried. “Lead poisoning can cause irreversible damage to a child’s brain. Prevention is critical.” 

“Lead poisoning continues to be the number one environmental poison for children in New York State,” said Assemblymember Sean Ryan. “Today’s legislation will help strengthen our efforts to detect and mitigate the dangerous consequences of lead poisoning in our children.”

Under the bill, the level of lead in a child’s blood requiring action under the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program would be lowered from 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of whole blood (pg/dL) to 5 pg/dL (A.5779, Ryan).

The most common source of lead exposure for children in the U.S. is deteriorated lead-based paint and dust contaminated with lead. In 1978, lead-based paints were banned for use in housing, but the majority of housing in the U.S. was built before the ban.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lead poisoning can affect almost every system in a child’s body. High levels of lead can cause coma, convulsions and death, but even low levels can result in decreased intelligence, impaired neurobehavioral development, decreased stature and growth and impaired hearing.

In 1992, the New York State Legislature enacted the Lead Poisoning Prevention Act, incorporating a recommendation issued by the CDC that a BLL of 10 pg/dL or greater trigger intervention. In 2012, the CDC lowered the recommended BLL to 5 pg/dL.

Today’s legislation will align the state’s standard with the recommendations of the CDC, and ensure that any future changes in the CDC’s recommendations receive prompt consideration.