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Testing kits address issue of lead paint in Buffalo

With lead paint in homes a continuing health concern in Buffalo, the city has purchased more than 1,400 testing kits and is about to buy about 14,000 more.

The kits will be available to residents citywide, at sites yet to be determined, but emphasis will be in areas experiencing the highest lead contamination levels, city officials said.

The Erie County Health Department has primary responsibility for handling lead contamination issues in Buffalo and Erie County, and recently announced that it is beefing up its lead-screening efforts. But given that Erie County ZIP codes with the highest levels are predominantly in Buffalo – 14201, 14207, 14208, 14209, 14210, 14211, 14212, 14213 and 14215 – city officials said they are getting involved.

The Common Council has so far spent about $10,000 on the 1,461 kits that recently arrived, according to Council President Darius G. Pridgen.

Pridgen said Tuesday that the kits soon will be distributed to Council members to give out to residents at community centers and similar sites, and training sessions will teach people to use them.

If the kits test positive for lead, the county Health Department would be asked to conduct further tests of a home to determine the extent of the problem, and what remediation or other action needs to be taken.

After the Council in February announced plans to purchase the kits, Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, began working with the city and obtained $100,000 in state funds for Buffalo, Pridgen said, which will go to purchase the 14,000 additional kits.

In February, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, released data showing that children in Western New York ages 5 and under suffer from the highest rate of lead poisoning in upstate New York. The data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed Erie County with a 14 percent rate of lead poisoning, compared with 8.6 percent in Monroe County.

While not all houses are suspected of containing lead paint, Buffalo has the highest percentage of homes built before World War II of any large city in the nation, according to county officials.

Many homes in the city were built before 1978, when lead was banned from paint. Old paint and dust from lead paint are considered the leading pathways for exposure in children. Lead exposure can result in impaired brain development, neurological problems and other ailments.

In addition to purchasing lead-testing kits, the city is distributing pamphlets across the city and having one of its environmental consultants help with lead testing.

email: sschulman@buffnews.com