to that discussion, we chatted with a number of Council members,
challengers and Sanders several times more to try to understand the debate
on the “Lead Paint bill.”
me say up front, we are not experts. We are just beginning our due
diligence on a not-so-simplistic subject. In weeks to come, we at the Tribune
will follow this issue in order to inform our readers and monitor
the Council and its members’ performance on this matter that seems to
pit the best interest of the most vulnerable of our city against a very
powerful and well-funded special interest group – the real estate lobby
will do my best not to make accusations in this, my first foray into the
issue, however Sanders and a number of his colleagues have brought my
blood temperature to just short of the boiling point.
what I share with you is my preliminary information, but probably enough
for you to turn to your Council member and ask, “Why hasn’t the
Council acted on childhood lead paint poisoning prevention?” That is
really the question I place on the table today.
July 1, a 1999 lead poisoning prevention law was set aside by the courts
leaving our City’s children with inadequate protection and landlords not
obligated to take the essential steps to abate this childhood plague. What
seems to be entirely preventable continues to strike our children.
simply, the ingestion and/or inhalation of lead paint (or its dust) can
lower IQ’s, cause brain damage and even result in death. And children
under the age of six, most often in the inner city, are too frequently
diagnosed as victims of this preventable poisoning.
No. 101-A The New York City Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act of
2003 is the current proposal to deal with the preventable plague. It is
being co-sponsored by 36 members of the City Council.
little, simple math would indicate that sponsorship by 36 of 51 Council
members means that it will become law — real soon.
so, says Councilman Sanders. “I am very concerned that the [well-funded]
special interests are going to put undue pressure on well-meaning Council
people,” he said.
who informed us that he is gathering information on this issue, has been
“assured by the best authority” that retardation and deaths will
result if the Council fails to act.
the bill sits in committee.
has sat there for months.
has not come to the floor of the Council for a vote.
at this moment, 36 of 51 — a clear majority of members — have
indicated they are prepared to act to protect our most vulnerable...our
it that simple?
unspoken cause of the delay — actually spoken, “off the record” —
is that nothing happens in the Council unless the Speaker wants it to.
Speaker Giff Miller is a candidate for Mayor and he and other members
don’t want to alienate the very large contributing block of real estate
interests, but are also concerned with protecting the children and thus
may have moved slowly. And the bill won’t get out of committee until the
Speaker says so.
to many Council members, it is the Speaker who will single-handedly decide
when, and in what form, lead paint poison prevention legislation will come
to the floor. It is his decision alone whether the present proposed high
standards, all-inclusive protection should be modified or not.
as Sanders sees it, “If we compromise and some kids who we could have
saved are damaged or die, then we have betrayed our trust.”
tell this writer privately that a number of Council members signed onto
this bill because of the heavy handed lobbying of organizations like the
Working Family Party and ACORN and they really believe a new bill could
and should provide the necessary protection for the children at risk
without being overly onerous on landlords or excessively costly for the
City to enforce.
the geographic “lead belt” – which includes portions of Queens and
indicates where there is still a high incidence of poisoning – there are
those who are suggesting compromise by limiting new regulation to those
the Speaker, I believe that he will act quickly on this matter and in the
best interest of all the children of the city. However, while he and his
Council wait, how many children are we losing?
members sponsoring Intro 101-A (in order of signing on to the bill) are:
John Liu (20th), James Sanders, Jr. (31st), Melinda Katz (29th), Eric
Gioia (26th), Hiram Monserrate (21st), Allan Jennings (28th), Joseph
Addabbo, Jr. (32nd), Leroy Comrie (27th) Tony Avella (19th) and David
the bill is Councilman James Gennaro (24th) who claims that he is the
Council’s environmental expert, but he is unable to convince his
colleagues that the bill is not good.
Peter Vallone Jr. (22nd) tells us, “The law can be improved, almost all
laws can. I support some of it, like including lead dust, but I don’t
support the current version, which is nothing but pandering to trial
lawyers. It will cost the city money and hurt children, while making the
trial lawyers even richer. I was a trial lawyer, so I know of what I
opposing the bill is Councilman Dennis Gallagher, the delegation’s only
Republican who has not been convinced of the need for additional
Helen Sears (25th) has yet to weigh in on this issue. We shall reach out
to her and keep you informed.
summary, as Councilwoman Melinda Katz explained to this writer, “as long
as the new law includes lead dust and a short timetable for landlord
action, we will have provided our children with much needed protection.”
of the other important provisions of the new proposed legislation is
clearly placing the responsibility on landlords to determine if there are
children living in an apartment that may require lead paint abatement.
matter is before the Council, the public is watching; the facts aren’t
changing; and the clock is ticking.
on City Council, why must our children wait any longer?
the National Safety Council
is a highly toxic metal that produces a range of adverse health effects,
particularly in young children.
Is It Found?
are many ways in which humans are exposed to lead: through deteriorating
paint and dust, air, drinking water, food, and contaminated soil. Airborne
lead enters the body when you breathe or swallow lead particles or dust
once it has settled. Lead can leach into drinking water from certain types
of plumbing materials (lead pipes, copper pipes with lead solder, and
brass faucets) and can also be found on walls, woodwork, and the outside
of your home in the form of lead-based paint. Lead can be deposited on
floors, windowsills, eating and playing surfaces, or in the dirt outside
two-thirds of the homes built before 1940, and one-half of the homes built
from 1940 to 1960 contain lead-based paint. Some homes built after 1960
but before 1978 may also contain lead paint. Most paint made after 1978
contains no intentionally added lead, since it was banned from use on the
interior and exterior of homes.
though leaded gasoline is seldom used today, high levels of lead found in
soil can be attributed to past emissions.
can swallow harmful amounts of lead if they play in the dirt or in dusty
areas (even indoors) and then put their fingers, clothes, or toys in their
mouths, or if they eat without first washing their hands.
Are The Health Effects?
to excessive levels of lead can cause brain damage; affect a child’s
growth; damage kidneys; impair hearing; cause vomiting, headaches, and
appetite loss; and cause learning and behavioral problems. In adults, lead
can increase blood pressure and can cause digestive problems, kidney
damage, nerve disorders, sleep problems, muscle and joint pain, and mood
infants, and children are more vulnerable to lead exposure than adults
since lead is more easily absorbed into growing bodies. Also, the tissues
of small children are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.
Exposure to lead is estimated by measuring levels in the blood (micrograms per deciliter). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has set a level of concern at 10 micrograms per deciliter. The CDC recommends testing children at their one-year checkup or at six months if the child is at risk of high-dose exposure.
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@QueensTribune.com