2007_1_health_leadpaint.gifChildren living in many city buildings, hankering for a midday snack and sticking their little fingers in between loose floor boards may find a tasty treat: lead paint chips! The Daily News reports today that about 900 of the buildings used to house homeless people, through Bloomberg's Housing Stability Plus program, have been found to violate lead paint regulations. About 700 buildings tested positive for lead paint while another 200 or so were highly suspected of housing the poison. The Department of Housing Services has specifically identified the violating buildings but does not go so far as to point out which particular apartments in those buildings are afflicted.

While most of these apartment walls are covered by non-lead based paint, many still retain an undercoating of the toxic taint that may predate 1978, the year when the stuff was banned from residences. Strangely, although all of these buildings were inspected for signs of cracked or peeling paint by the Department of Homeless Services, they did not specifically look for lead.

This news should be, however, tempered by the fact that lead poisoning rates have been steadily declining in the city, including a commendable 86% decrease over the past decade.

Lead paint is particularly damaging to children under the age of 6 whose organ systems, particularly their central nervous systems, are still developing. And imbibing of the chips has been linked to attention deficit disorder, stunted growth, low IQs, and kidney problems. Lead paint is also, unfortunately, quite sweet tasting (so we're told), so we can't really blame tots for gorging on it.

So what can you, as a parent, do to prevent lead poisoning? The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene offers the following tips:

  1. Report peeling paint to your landlord. In New York City, landlords are required to fix peeling paint in homes of young children.
  2. Remind your doctor to test your child for lead poisoning at ages 1 and 2. Ask the doctor about testing older children who may be at risk for lead exposure.
  3. Wash floors, windowsills, hands, toys and pacifiers often.
  4. Don’t use imported foods and spices, medicines, clay pots and dishes, cosmetics, and toys known to contain lead.
  5. Use only cold tap water to make baby formula and for drinking and cooking. Run the water for a few minutes first.

For more information on lead poisoning prevention, call 311 or visit the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Lead Poisoning Page. Oh, and to stem the tide of impending snarky comments, we do realize that pencils are no longer made of lead, we just found the picture hilarious.