State lawmaker’s plan to combat lead poisoning

Lead poisoning in Buffalo is a public health crisis.

In fact, Investigative Post reported in November 2014 that the city is “ground zero”  for lead poisoning problems. Even low levels of lead in children’s blood can cause permanent damage, such as learning and developmental disabilities.

On Thursday morning, Assemblyman Sean Ryan announced his plan to combat this problem.

Ryan cited in the speech Investigative Post’s reporting in proposing a package of state legislation that he said will help prevent exposure to lead in paint and water.

His first proposal would amend the state’s definition of elevated blood lead level to match what the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers to be dangerous. In March 2016, Investigative Post reported how the state Department of Health has failed to adopt the more stringent CDC standard. If the new level is adopted, the state and county health departments would have to expand services to potentially thousands of more children across the state.

Erie County spends $750,000 a year for lead prevention. A portion of that funding already goes to helping children diagnosed with lead levels that the CDC considers to be concerning. But most of the other health departments throughout the state do not provide services to similarly diagnosed children in their counties.

Ryan’s second proposed law would require all day care centers to test drinking water for lead, similar to what public schools do already.

His third legislative proposal would ban the sale and distribution of lead-laced jewelry that is marketed to children.

His fourth proposal would prohibit insurance companies from excluding coverage in home policies for children harmed by chipping and peeling lead paint. Some 85,000 homes and apartments in Buffalo are considered at risk for lead paint hazards. Presently, renters cannot file insurance claims to cover damages caused by chipping and peeling lead paint. Ryan discussed this specific problem in September during an Investigative Post podcast.

“It’s an awful exclusion, it’s immoral, it’s unconscionable,” Ryan said during his press conference on Buffalo’s West Side, which has some the highest lead poisoning rates in the state.

All of Ryan’s proposals require approval from the state legislature and governor.