An investigation by The New York Times showed that the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), the agency that operates low-income housing or “the projects,” within the city, has routinely disputed tests that revealed higher lead levels in its apartments. The New York Times article gives the example of a toddler living in NYCHA housing who had ingested paint chips that fell from the wall to the floor. In the summer of 2016, the girl who was not yet 3 years old had lead in her blood at levels described as “rarely seen in modern New York.”
A retest two days later showed even higher levels of lead, numbers commonly seen in factory or construction workers. Lead poisoning victims with such excessive amounts may suffer irreversible brain damage. When city health inspectors visited the two Brooklyn public housing apartments where the little girl spent her time, to look for the source of lead exposure they found dangerous levels of lead in both homes.
Challenging the Health Department’s Findings
The Health Department then ordered NYCHA to fix the lead problems. NYCHA responded by challenging the results instead of working on removing the source of the contamination. The agency insisted that there was no lead in the apartments where the girl and her family lived. Investigations have since found an egregious amount of mismanagement within the city agency resulting in lead inspections and reports being routinely ignored, based on the news article.
In addition to disregarding these inspection reports, the Times found, for at least two decades, each time a child in “the projects” tested positive for high lead levels, NYCHA launched a counteroffensive. The agency has challenged 95 percent of orders that it received from the Health Department after its investigators detected lead in the apartments. By contrast, private landlords seldom contest a finding of lead. They did so in only 4 percent of the 5,000 such orders they had received during the same period, according to records.
What’s worse, NYCHA’s strategy often worked. The Health Department backed down in 158 out of 211 cases in public housing after NYCHA mounted a challenge. Health officials told the Times that it did so because it became convinced that the initial test was a false positive.
Why Lead is Dangerous
Lead paint can become extremely hazardous when it peels from the walls and falls to the ground as flakes or dust. When children ingest these substances they can suffer severe and long-term health effects. Lead has been banned in New York City since 1960 and federally since 1978. Since then New York City has seen a decrease in lead poisoning cases. NYCHA, it appears, completely ignored the issue even as its apartments were in appallingly poor condition exposing occupants to lead among other harmful substances. Even as these problems started coming to light, the de Blasio administration and other city officials have downplayed them. Now, more than 1,000 children have tested positive for lead poisoning in these apartments and the number continues to grow.
Understanding Your Rights
Lead poisoning may result in a number of serious health conditions from headaches and stomach pain to behavioral issues and even brain damage. Children may suffer from lifelong issues including learning disabilities and behavioral problems. If you suspect your child has been exposed to lead due to poor conditions in your home, it is very important that you test your child for lead poisoning.
Parents of children affected by lead poisoning due to the negligence of a landlord and/or managing agent who was in violation of lead paint standards or because the building was poorly maintained, etc. may be able to recover money damages. You may be able to seek compensation for medical expenses, cost of diagnostic tests, permanent injuries, disabilities, past and future pain and suffering, loss of earnings and loss of earning capacity, etc.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
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 full policy of one million dollars.
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