OPINION / COMMENTARY
Investing in Lead Paint Education and Removal Programs Will Eliminate Lead Poisoning
The debate over the local budget, how much and where to best allocate resources for public health when there are few dollars to spare, gets more heated each year. I believe the best investment to protect the health of Buffalo’s children is in funding lead paint education and removal programs. Lead paint poisoning affects over one million people day. It is a huge public health problem in Western New York, especially in old urban centers such as Buffalo, where most homes were built before 1978. Since there is no medical treatment that permanently reverses the harmful health effects of lead exposure, focusing on primary prevention is critical to address and eliminate the problem.
The Federal government banned lead paint for residential use in 1978, yet the problem still pervades society today in 2011. In fact, 38 million homes in the United States (US) contain lead-based paint. It is no surprise that eight zip codes in Erie County have been designated by the New York State Department of Health as “Communities of Concern” where children are at high risk for lead poisoning. These communities are located in the city of Buffalo zip codes: 14201, 14207, 14208, 14209, 14211, 14212, 14213, and 14215. This makes our region one of the most dangerous for young children.
I, myself, have met children suffering from the adverse affects of lead paint poisoning. In particular, one child, Cory* was exposed to lead paint on a daily basis while visiting his grandparents. While the interior of the house was newly re-painted and free from lead hazards, the back porch was never re-painted. The grandparents unknowingly allowed the child to play in a severely dangerous environment. Upon entering school, Cory was sent for testing, as he did not measure up to other school children. High levels of lead were found in his bloodstream and he later tested for a very low intellegence quotient. Today, Cory faces tremendous hurdles at school and in social environments.