For immediate release: March 31, 2022
Contact: Paul Webster (Clean & Healthy NY), 518-603-9297,
Legislators and Advocates Call on Governor, Legislative Leaders To Support Funding Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention & Mitigation in 2022-2023 Budget
ALBANY, NY – March 31, 2022: Advocates and legislative leaders today called on Governor Kathy Hochul, the Senate and Assembly to include increased funding and protections against childhood lead poisoning and lead contamination in the 2022-2023 New York State budget.
New York State has the nation’s highest number of homes built before lead paint was banned in 1978. According to the Association of Homer Builders, New York has 5.3 million homes built before 1978, and estimates that many of them still have lead present. As a result, the state also has the greatest number of children who have elevated blood lead levels. The costs to families, their communities, and the state include: decreased inhibitions and increased anger, which can increase the number of people in the criminal justice system, increased costs to schools to support children with decreased IQ and learning abilities, increased health care costs for the host of health problems to which lead poisoning contributes, including heart disease.
As budget negotiations come to a close, the Lead Free Kids New York coalition calls for the following measures already in one or more proposed budget:
$2B increase to the state Environmental Bond Act proposed by Senate, above the Executive draft budget, with a call to incorporate lead remediation activities in the scope of work for resources available for low- and moderate income housing weatherization and climate resilience and mitigation efforts.
$45M in funding for Code Compliant Housing in both Senate and Assembly one-house budgets
$10M in the Assembly one-house budget for a Lead in Housing Mitigation/ Landlord Grant Program
$4M increase to Seven Regional Children’s Environmental Health Centers as proposed in the Assembly one-house budget for the Environmental Protection Fund.
The coalition further urged $47M for county-based Health Department Lead Poisoning Prevention programs to restore the cuts to each of 15 counties’ primary prevention programs when five new counties were added to the program without expanding the total funding line. It would also fully fund both primary and secondary prevention efforts necessitated by the legislature’s previously unfunded lowering of the action level for lead-poisoned children in 2020.
Senator Brian Kavanagh (D-26th SD) said, “Lead poisoning persists as one of the most prevalent and preventable environmental diseases in New York, with thousands of children having blood lead levels above the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s reference value. As we heard again and again at our hearing of the Housing and Health Committees in the fall, the State’s response to this urgent problem has been far from adequate for decades. Now is the time to do the things we know are necessary to ensure that our homes and buildings are not continuing to poison our children. We must secure substantial funding for lead remediation and pass necessary legislation to institute a long-needed primary prevention mechanism for finding and eliminating lead hazards.”
Senator Sean Ryan (D-60th SD) said “Kids throughout our state are suffering from lead poisoning, and their parents are stuck paying the enormous and continuous medical costs. This is a preventable crisis that we must take action on. We need to pass my legislation to finally end the cycle of continuous poisoning – a cycle that has proven to be both inequitable and detrimental to the health of our children.”
Senator Cordell Cleare (D-30th SD) said, “I am honored to stand with colleagues from the Lead Free Kids NY Coalition and WE ACT For Environmental Justice, a dynamic group that I am a proud long standing member of to demand a proactive and reoccurring financial commitment to eradicate lead from our homes, from our soil and from our water supply—the health of future generations demands that we act today!”
“This is something that we can annihilate in our lifetime,” said Assemblymember JD Rivera (D-149th AD), “It’s not just good ideas, it’s not just good policy – we know that it requires resources, we know that it requires funding.” “If we don’t address this situation we’re only hurting ourselves and our future generations.”
“For too long, New York’s response to its lead poisoning crisis has been slow, underfunded, and focused on taking action only after a child has elevated levels of lead. It’s critical that the state accelerate its efforts, and focus on the source: lead in housing,” said Bobbi Wilding, Executive Director of Clean and Healthy New York, an environmental health advocacy organization. “As bills advance to shift the policy framework, we call on the Governor, Senate, and Assembly to use this year’s budget to pivot toward primary prevention with resources for housing interventions and action by county health departments.”
Liz Moran, New York Policy Advocate for Earthjustice, said, “There is a moral imperative for New York’s budget to fund measures to get lead out of our homes, water and the environment, so we end the scourge of lead poisoning that plagues our State, especially in low-income communities and communities of color. Any level of lead in the body is linked to health harm – including neurological damage in children that is irreversible, increased risk for cardiovascular disease, and likely cancer, making it crucial to eliminate all possible routes of exposure to lead. We urge Governor Hochul and the Legislature to prioritize funding for lead poisoning prevention programs in this year’s budget.”
“We urge Governor Hochul and the State legislature to put sufficient funds in the budget to address childhood lead poisoning prevention, enforcement, and mitigation,” said Sonal Jessel, MPH, Director of Policy at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “New York State has more children with elevated blood lead levels than any other state in the nation. And we know from studies that Black children living below the poverty line are twice as likely to suffer from lead poisoning as poor white children, which makes this a terrible injustice that urgently needs to be addressed.”
“There is no way to achieve climate resilient housing across New York State without addressing the pervasive problem of lead contamination,” said Paul Webster, Program Director of Clean and Healthy New York and a member of the Lead Free Kids New York Coalition. “As we address our state’s weatherization needs in the Bond Act, we must pivot to mitigating the presence of lead in our older housing. The bond act was created for purposes like these and New York needs to take action to protect our children and save lives.”
“In a state as wealthy as ours, it is unconscionable that New York continues to have the distinction of leading the nation in the number of children who experience lead poisoning,” said Rebecca Garrard, Legislative Director for Citizen Action of New York. “We urge the legislature to finally invest in the primarily Black and brown communities impacted by this crisis through the passage of key legislation introduced by Senator Kavanagh and the budgetary commitment to eradicating lead poisoning once and for all.”
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Lead-Free Kids New York (LFKNY) is a growing statewide coalition of individuals, groups and organizations working together to end New York’s childhood lead exposure and poisoning crises. We work statewide to identify and advocate for state level policy solutions to childhood lead exposure in housing and other settings within the community.