Buffalo’s big lead poisoning problem

Investigative Post, in the first of a three-part series, examines the danger posed by lead paint contamination in Buffalo.

Buffalo children aged five and under test positive for lead poisoning at more than three times the state average. Erie County’s rate is the worst of the 11 counties that test 10,000 or more children a year.

“Buffalo is ground zero in the entire country for lead poisoning,” said David Hahn-Baker, an environmental activist in Buffalo.

Dr. Stanley Schaffer, director of the Western New York Lead Poisoning Resource Center in Rochester, said the consequences can be dire: Reduced IQ, learning disabilities and  irritable- even violent -behavior.

“The effect of lead poisoning on intelligence are irreversible. Once you lose your brain cells they don’t grow back for the most part,” Schaffer said.On Tuesday, Investigative Post and WGRZ report that City Hall has taken a mostly hands-off approach to the problem, leaving it in the hands of an overwhelmed Erie County Health Department. Tuesday’s story on WGRZ will be accompanied by an in-depth piece that will publish on this website and in Artvoice. 

On Wednesday, we report from Rochester on its aggressive lead program that is considered a national model.