More Than 900 NYC Classrooms Contaminated with Lead

More than 900 New York City classrooms serving young children were found to have high levels of lead paint contamination during recent inspections.
Nicole Honeywill/Unsplash

More than 900 New York City classrooms serving young children were found to have high levels of lead paint contamination during recent inspections.

Education media Chalkbeat alerted readers to results of an initial investigation, conducted by WNYC and Gothamist, into four schools.

Dr. Morri Markowitz, director of the Lead Poisoning Prevention and Treatment Program at Montefiore’s Children’s Hospital in the Bronx, warned the high levels of lead contamination found in the classrooms initially investigated are actually pervasive throughout the city’s schools.

“There’s enough information here for me to be concerned that there is a serious potential risk of exposure to lead from dust in the schools of New York City,” he said.

City Councilman Mark Treyger, chair of the Education Committee, urged Mayor Bill de Blasio to immediately organize a response team with the city’s departments of education and health, and the mayor’s lead-czar, Katherine Garcia.

“This to me is an emergency,” Treyger said. “This is not an issue that you could just simply punt and do a working group on. This is a public health issue.”

The city has pledged to remedy the situation before the school year begins in September.

“Our schools are safe, and this summer we’ve enhanced our protocols and strengthened communication with families around the steps we take to prevent lead exposure for kids under six,” Miranda Barbot, education department spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Chalkbeat reported:

Brooklyn posted the highest number of school buildings testing positive for lead paint, with 114 buildings, followed by 90 in the Bronx; 48 in Queens; 29 in Manhattan; and 21 in Staten Island. Two school buildings — P.S. 108 in Brooklyn and P.S. 49 in the Bronx — each had a dozen classrooms test positive for lead paint, the highest figure for a single school building.

Gothamist pointed to a “gap” in lead poisoning laws in the city:

[T]he findings highlight a gap in the city’s lead poisoning protection laws — they do not require lead testing or remediation in public schools that are not under renovation. They also come at a moment when Mayor Bill de Blasio — a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination — has pledged to completely eliminate lead exposure in the city by 2029.

The investigation notes many of the laws enacted to regulate lead paint “exclude the school buildings where more than a million children spend a large number of their waking hours.”

“There is no systematic approach to examining the buildings,” said Markowitz. “It’s a problem because we have a lot of old school buildings, but there’s no mandate to systematically examine the structures for lead-based paint. And it’s expensive, so who has an interest not to look?”

Results of the investigation come months after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio allocated $4.1 million to provide legal assistance for illegal alien children and separated families at the southern border of the United States.

“The Trump Administration’s cruel and inhumane attacks on immigrant families seeking refuge in our country is un-American,” the current 2020 Democrat contender said in September 2018. “Those are not New York City’s values, which is why we are stepping up and speaking out to help these families and call on the President to reunite the over 400 remaining separated children.”

The mayor’s announcement of the assistance to illegal alien children and their families followed a city employee delegation to provide pro bono assistance to families facing detention near the southern border.

“Mothers and fathers need to be able to hug and console their children and we are doing everything we can to help by providing free high-quality legal services,” de Blasio said.

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