Blueprint issued for combatting lead poisoning

The City of Buffalo needs to empower inspectors to get inside houses to determine whether they are contaminated with chipped or flaking lead paint, a report issued Tuesday said.

While noting steps the city and Erie County have taken in recent years, the 102-page report by CGR Inc., a Rochester-based consulting firm, declared that defeating “lead poisoning will require much more from local government and the entire community.”

The report included 17 recommendations, the most important ones addressing the need for stepped-up inspections of residential properties. As it now stands, inspectors are not guaranteed entry to test interiors for lead paint that could pose a danger to inhabitants.

The report recommends:

  • Interior inspections for deteriorated paint for all one and two unit rentals every three years after a six year phase-in period. Rentals are targeted because the study found 80 percent of the children in Buffalo who test positive for high levels of lead in their blood live in rental properties.
  • An inspection leading to a certificate of occupancy for all residential properties when they are sold. The logic: 93 percent of housing in Buffalo was built before 1980, about the time lead in paint was banned.

Interior inspections have been used in Rochester, among other places, and been credited with lowering lead poisoning cases.

Mayor Byron Brown and the Common Council thus far have been unwilling to mandate such inspections. Instead, they have relied on other measures that Investigative Post reported last July have not been effectively implemented.

The county has also stepped up its inspection efforts, but the report noted the problem in Buffalo’s inner-city remains serious.

“The problem in Buffalo has changed little since 2008,” the report said.

The report confirmed what Investigative Post has previously reported: that lead poisoning is a bigger problem in Buffalo than any other large upstate city. Some 466 children in Erie County, most of them living in Buffalo, tested for high levels of lead in their blood in 2017, the report said.

The percentage of children six and under testing positive for high lead levels is more than twice the state average, excluding NYC, according to the report.

“Lead poisoning causes permanent damage including loss of I.Q., developmental delays, learning disabilities, memory loss, hearing loss, attention deficits, hyperactivity, and behavioral disorders,” said the report, prepared for a consortium that includes the city, Erie County and the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo.