County health departments statewide are investigating cases of children exposed to lead at a lower threshold than ever before.
The New York State Department of Health recently lowered its definition of what constitutes an elevated blood lead level from 10 micrograms per deciliter or higher to 5. This change means children whose elevated lead levels were overlooked previously will be identified and helped.
Old paint in housing is a common source of lead poisoning for children. Preventative efforts include testing homes for lead dust, maintaining painted surfaces in good condition and conducting any renovations using lead safe work practices. Anyone living in the city of Rochester can get their home tested for free by calling (585) 428-6520.
“It’s especially important for tenants living in the city of Rochester to know that they have rights and resources available to them,” saod Mel Callan, chair of the Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning. “If a tenant living in the city of Rochester asks for a free home lead inspection, their landlord is legally responsible for addressing any lead hazards found from it. If your landlord doesn’t comply, the city will withhold rent from them until the hazards are addressed. The city may also be able to connect landlords and homeowners to financial resources to help address those lead hazards. Our community has a dedicated team of folks who want to help families, not look for ways to penalize them.”
“The staff at the Monroe County Department of Public Health work to help families exposed to lead and educate the public in an effort to reduce future cases of childhood lead poisoning,” said Michael Mendoza, commissioner of public health. “With the change to New York state’s definition of elevated blood lead levels, we remain committed to continuing this important work toward our community’s ultimate goal to eliminate lead poisoning.”
Even small amounts of lead dust in a child’s body can cause permanent learning and behavioral problems, often with no physical symptoms. This damage can include lower IQ, hyperactivity and behavior problems that can lead to delinquency. Pregnant women have a risk of transferring lead to their baby in the womb, especially if they live in an older home that has degrading paint.
“Our work to eradicate lead poisoning is a committed communitywide effort,” Mayor Lovely Warren said. “This past year, the number of resident children with elevated blood lead levels was the lowest it has ever been. The National League of Cities released a report in 2018 that cited Rochester as the ‘gold standard’ and a national ‘exemplar’ for enacting and enforcing inspection policies that generate healthy housing options for city residents.”
Call (585) 224-3125 or visit for information on how to protect children, homes and the community from the effects of lead poisoning.