Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo

City of Buffalo, Erie County, Buffalo Public Schools & Community Foundation Announce New Lead Effort

Oct 28, 2016 | Posted in News

Buffalo, NY – Mayor Byron W. Brown today marked National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week by unveiling a new billboard and bus advertisement campaign and new lead education flyers. The City of Buffalo/Regional lead poisoning awareness effort is the fruit of an on-going collaboration between the City, Erie County, Buffalo Public Schools and the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo’s Green & Healthy Homes Initiative.

“The new Wipe Out Lead campaign features 28 billboards which debuted across Buffalo in the past week, along with companion messaging on 120 NFTA buses, starting November 7th. The majority of the billboards are located in the City’s 14211, 14213 and 14215 zip codes, neighborhoods where the highest incidence of elevated blood lead levels have been documented,” Mayor Brown said.

The flyer, which will be available in multiple languages, is being distributed through more than 30 community centers and neighborhood programs, and will also be going out to Buffalo Public School families. It will also be distributed through the City’s Citizen Services and Youth Services divisions, and is available on the City of Buffalo website.

“This important message is purposely directed to families because infants, children under the age of 6, and pregnant women are most at-risk for harm from lead exposure. Lead poisoning is preventable, but once poisoning occurs, there is no way to reverse the physical damage,” Mayor Brown added.

The billboards and flyers direct Buffalo residents who have concerns about lead in their homes to call the City’s 311 hotline. In July, a dedicated lead line was added to the 311 Hotline for reporting lead concerns. Calls involving lead-based paint are passed along to the City’s Office of Permit and Inspections Services to schedule an inspection, while those requesting water tests go to the Buffalo Sewer Department to set up that process.

The flyers also answer basic questions about lead exposure including:

  • What are the physical effects of lead poisoning?
  • How do children and pregnant women get poisoned?
  • How to prevent exposure to lead?
  • How can you tell if you or your children are lead poisoned?

Thousands of flyers were given to 30 directors of Buffalo community centers Friday for distribution to children and families who utilize their services.

Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gail Burstein said lead is a fact of life in older cities across the country, as well as in Buffalo, because so many City homes and apartment buildings were built before 1978, when lead-based paint was banned.

“While our recent national dialogue about lead poisoning has focused on places with contaminated water, chipping and peeling paint is by far the leading cause of lead poisoning in children. Lead paint dust and chips ingested by toddlers and young children can lead to permanent intellectual disability. By ensuring that your child is tested for elevated blood levels at ages 1 and 2, parents can help ensure the successful development of their children,” Dr. Burstein said.

The administration of Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz has led the way in expanding the ECDOH Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, which has been augmented with a new Supervisor, 5 new lead inspectors, 1 clerical worker and I additional public health nurse. The new staff has already conducted nearly 100 inspections during their training period, which is now complete, and will provide a more intensive focus on Elevated Blood Lead Levels (“EBLLs”) in high-risk zip codes. The additional public health nurse will provide limited case management for children with EBLLs between 5 – 9 micrograms per deciliter, while the ECDOH Environmental Health division is also working with local physicians to expand confirmatory testing for this lower lead level.

In addition, new grant funding received from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) has spurred planning for wider lead outreach around Erie County. Work supported by this $3.4 million grant will formally start on December 1, 2016 with 218 homes targeted to be cleared of lead contamination. Lead remediation work funded by this grant will initially be primarily focused on rental units in the cities of Buffalo and Lackawanna but can take place anywhere in Erie County.

The lead awareness flyers unveiled today are in English and Spanish. Ultimately, more than 100,000 flyers will be distributed over the coming weeks, in at least six languages, to ensure Buffalo’s newest residents who do not speak English are fully-informed about the dangers of lead exposure.

Buffalo Public Schools, which is in an ideal position to grab the attention of the target audience of families with young children, will be a key distribution channel.

"We are greatly concerned with the health and safety of our children," said Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash. "We are addressing all obstacles to education and well-being through the New Education Bargain - with Community Schools, Extended Learning Time after school, smaller class sizes, and every type of support children and their families need and want to accelerate education and ensure bright futures. We can't afford to let something as insidious, and yet as preventable, as lead poisoning interfere with our children's futures. I applaud Mayor Brown's efforts toward awareness, and the Buffalo Public Schools will partner and cooperate in every way we can to help spread the word about prevention."
“I want to thank all our partners, especially Erie County Executive Poloncarz and the Erie County Department of Health, for making these billboards and bus ads possible. Since the announcement of my Lead Hazard Control Program in May, staff from several City departments have been meeting with Erie County, Buffalo Schools and Community Foundation representatives on a regular basis. This is truly a collaborative effort which is already bearing fruit,” Mayor Brown said.

“There is great power in collaboration,” said Cara Matteliano, Vice President, Community Impact at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. “We know that lead poisoning jeopardizes the future of our youth. To ensure all children are protected from lead poisoning, the Community Foundation is a proud supporter and convener of the Western New York Lead Coalition. This coalition is comprised of over 50 individuals and institutions fighting childhood lead poisoning through advocacy, awareness, and public private partnership. Lead poisoning is 100 percent preventable and we are honored to partner with the City of Buffalo, the Erie County Department of Health, and the Buffalo Public Schools to help the community access information to protect our children’s future.”

Earlier this month the Buffalo Common Council unanimously approved key amendments to the City Charter, City Code, and the city’s Rental Registry Law to hold landlords to a higher degree of accountability, while increasing their tenants understanding of lead dangers, and what they can do to live in a safe home.

The theme of National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week 2016 is “Lead Free Kids for a Healthy Future.” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which share the goal of eliminating childhood lead poisoning in the United States, sponsor the annual lead poisoning awareness week which runs from October 23 – 29, 2016.

For more information, City of Buffalo residents can call 311, visit the City of Buffalo website at or Erie County residents can also call the Erie County Department of Health at (716) 961-8900.

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