An in-depth report by Gothamist talks about the heavy toll COVID-19 has taken on New York City’s protocols for preventing childhood lead poisoning and for catching young children who have high blood levels early in order to prevent further harm. According to the report, the coronavirus pandemic has led to a decline in testing, home inspections and follow-up from health inspectors to make repairs.
Decline in Testing and Inspections
In New York City, the number of children with elevated lead levels has dropped by more than 90% over the last 15 years. But, it is important to remember that past rates of exposure were so elevated that the decline still leaves more than 3,000 children in the city who are affected each year. Many live in public housing units owned by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) (the Projects) as well as in units owned privately by landlords and companies.
Right now, the city may be leaving out children with high lead levels especially as many of them are spending more time inside their homes with potential lead paint hazards that haven’t been fixed. As a result, officials are anticipating a spike in the number of lead poisoning cases. Doctors at the Lead Poisoning and Treatment Program at Montefiore Children’s Hospital in the Bronx told Gothamist that they have seen a dramatic decline in the number of children coming in to be screened for lead exposure since the pandemic began. Blood testing at Montefiore went down by between 40 to 50%, they said.
Lead Protection Laws
More concerning is the fact that the pandemic has affected the Health Department’s ability to send out inspectors into homes to test for deteriorating lead paint and to force landlords (building owners) to make repairs. Local Law 1 requires landlords to use firms certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) when disturbing more than 100 square feet of lead paint, replacing windows or fixing violations issued by the city.
The law also requires lead inspections to be carried out any time a child tests with a lead level of 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood. While the city has stepped up home inspections since mid-September, Gothamist says the Health Department is now faced with a significant backlog of cases. The delay in inspections also raises questions about whether landlords are forced to address dangerous lead-paint conditions, which is one of the main pillars of the city’s lead protection laws.
Children and Lead Poisoning
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that nearly half a million children across the U.S. appear to have missed routine blood-lead tests in just the first five months of 2020, although testing in New York City started to rebound since then. Public health officials have also said that thousands of children likely experienced delayed access to care and services due to the pandemic.
It’s also affecting children in New York City schools. This past summer, an official with the Department of Education, told principals that legally required lead paint inspections in classrooms were being delayed because of budget shortfalls. Public health advocates in the city are urging Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council to safeguard funding for lead poisoning prevention programs.
NYC Lead Poisoning Lawyer
Whether you have been living as a tenant at a private apartment complex or in a public housing unit (the Projects), please remember that you have legal rights. If your child has been diagnosed with high blood lead levels, regardless of whether you live in public or private housing, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the NYCHA (the Projects) or private landlords (building owners and building managers) for damages. Those who have been affected can seek compensation for damages including medical expenses, cost of diagnostic tests, permanent injuries, lost income and benefits, disabilities, past and future pain and suffering, etc.
If your child has been affected by lead poisoning, the experienced New York personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options, and also fight hard to recover just compensation for you.
Our firm recovered $1,162,500 for a child who suffered lead poisoning from paint in her apartment. The child’s injuries were subtle and difficult to recognize. We recovered $162,500 above the $1 million dollar total insurance policy in this case. Despite the judge’s efforts to settle the case for $950,000, we fought hard and recovered $162,500 more than the insurance policy of one million dollars. Also, one of our clients obtained a verdict for $43,940,000 and another of our clients got a verdict for $23,500,000, both in medical malpractice cases.
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