Local Public Health Leaders Call on State to Fund Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Activities

Lower blood level law passed in 2019 remains underfunded

An estimated 17,000 New York children under age 6 have actionable elevated blood lead levels

(Albany, New York) Local public health leaders and health advocates from across the state today called on New York’s lawmakers to provide funding necessary to support a 2019 law designed to better protect children from lead poisoning. The law lowered from 10 to 5 micrograms per deciliter the actionable blood lead level necessary to trigger numerous public health interventions, ranging from follow-up testing, clinical care coordination and environmental investigation of lead sources to management of abatement activities, services of which are provided by local health departments (LHDs).

The estimated cost to implement the 2019 law was $40 million annually, however, the state provided just $9.7million, leaving a $30.3 million gap, which is a significant barrier to effective implementation of the law. 

Data from 2017-2018 shows as many as 17,000 children under age 6 in New York State have actionable elevated blood lead levels, more than any other state in the nation. With the pandemic and unintentional health consequences that have mounted with children not being appropriately tested for lead levels, it is imperative that the state increases the statewide lead poisoning prevention program appropriation in this year’s budget.

High blood lead levels in children cause both short- and long-term harm, ranging from anemia, nausea, hair loss, confusion, and muscle weakness to permanent serious damage to the brain, kidneys, and bone marrow. Long term exposure to high levels can be fatal. 

New York State Association of County Health Officials (NYSACHO) President and Onondaga County Commissioner of Health Dr. Indu Gupta said: “The 2019 law lowering the actionable blood lead level in children was sound public health policy that we strongly supported. However, it has become enormously difficult for local health departments to implement given the significant shortfall in state funding necessary for comprehensive implementation. Furthermore, we support CDC's recent recommendation of lowering actionable blood level from 5.0 microgram/dl to 3.5 microgram/dl, to protect the health of our children, which will need additional resources for the public health work. Therefore, we are calling on state leaders to provide the support we need to ensure our work to protect children exposed to lead can be fully engaged and sustained. 

Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Orleans and Genesee counties, said: “Childhood exposure to lead is a significant problem across New York, including in rural counties. The impact of the 2019 law is expected to increase actionable cases of elevated levels 10-fold in our region. This tremendous increase in workload requires additional resources and staffing to successfully implement the law.”

OTHER MEMBER QUOTES (Western NY, North Country, Central NY, Cap Region, Hudson Valley, NYC, LI)

A comprehensive package of public health investments identified by NYSACHO, termed the “PREPARE Act,” includes a call for $30.3 million to support child lead poisoning prevention activities. 

The full PREPARE Act can be found at https://www.nysacho.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/PREPARE-Act-Canva_12.22.21.pdf.

Solages: "Environmental racism and failing infrastructure have plagued communities of color for decades. Every New Yorker deserves a healthy environment to learn, grow, and live in.That is why the BPHA Caucus is calling for the enacted budget to include increased funding for lead poisoning prevention. New York State has passed legislation to migrate the harm of lead poisoning and we now need the required funds to implement it."