December 19, 2016
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced a citywide plan on Monday to prevent lead poisoning in children, a dangerous type of exposure that can contribute to the development of lifelong intellectual disabilities.
The Lead Free Kids initiative will strengthen enforcement of existing laws and expand outreach efforts in hard-hit neighborhoods to ensure that as many children as possible receive blood tests for lead levels.
Rates of lead poisoning have declined significantly over the last decade, but last year the city recorded 369 children who had blood lead levels above 10 micrograms per deciliter, a threshold that increases kids' vulnerability to adverse health effects. The CDC recommends that children be and monitored whenever their blood lead level climbs above 5 micrograms per deciliter.
The primary source of harmful lead exposure in Philadelphia continues to be paint, which affects many homes constructed before a federal ban on lead-based paint in 1978. In Philadelphia, city offcials estimate about 551,000 rental units could potentially have lead-based paint in them. About 56,000 of those properties have children aged six or younger.
“Childhood lead poisoning today is a legacy from decades of disregard of health risks by paint companies and inaction by federal regulators,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, Commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. “Nonetheless, this is a problem that has fallen to us to solve. While we’ve made great progress in reducing lead poisoning, we cannot accept the number of Philadelphia’s children who are exposed to lead today. We are eager to step up our lead poisoning prevention work and get advice from outside experts on how we can do be even more effective.”
As part of the city's strategy, the Department of Licenses and Inspections will modify how it issues rental licenses to block violators of the city's lead paint disclosure law.
Other efforts will include increased education for landlords and enforcing stricter compliance reminder notices, violation notices, assessment and collection of fines and court actions.
“There is nothing more important to me or to the future of Philadelphia than helping our children achieve their fullest potential,” said Mayor Kenney. “We are determined to take the steps necessary to prevent lead paint from holding our children back."