Cuomo: State can help on lead problem

While noting the problem of lead poisoning is primarily a local responsibility, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told Investigative Post on Wednesday that the state is prepared to act “right away” to help deal with the problem.

“Well, if there are children who are in homes with lead paint and the lead is friable or lead is peeling, then that should be remediated, and if it’s not being enforced by the local government then the state should, and if you tell me where they are we will have the state on it right away,” Cuomo said during a visit to Buffalo.

The number of young children in Buffalo who tested with concerning amounts of lead in their blood increased last year in Buffalo, according to data obtained by Investigative Post. They totaled 273, including 123 who levels were high enough to warrant some type of health intervention.

The increase is especially troubling because Buffalo already had the worst lead poisoning problem of any city in Upstate New York.

The Erie County Health Department is primarily responsible for testing houses for lead paint and officials have said they could use assistance. Mayor Byron Brown said last summer he was willing to discuss getting the city more involved, but he recently expressed satisfaction with the city’s current level of engagement.

However, some members of the Common Council said the city needs to get more involved, especially in light of the growing awareness of lead poisoning triggered by the crisis in Flint, Michigan.

Cuomo’s comments have the potential to prompt city and county officials to move off the dime and begin discussing how they can better work together.

For more on this story, see Jim Heaney’s “Outrages & Insights” blog that aired and published Sunday.