The major cause of lead poisoning in Buffalo is lead based paint, found in virtually all houses built before 1978 when lead was banned. Over 90 percent of Buffalo’s housing was built before 1978, and the main problem is deteriorated paint (chipped, peeled or dust). Nine of the highest risk zip codes for lead poisoning are in Buffalo: 14201, 14207, 14208, 14209, 14210, 14211, 14212, 14213 and 14215–making our region one of the most dangerous for young children nationwide.
Lead poisoning is especially dangerous for children under the age of six. Lead poisoning causes permanent neurological damage including loss of I.Q., developmental delays, learning disabilities, memory loss, hearing loss, attention deficits, hyperactivity, and behavioral disorders. In extreme cases, lead exposure can result in organ failure and death.
The good news is that lead poisoning is preventable, and prevention requires collaboration on every level. The Community Foundation has been working with partners to reduce childhood lead poisoning since 2008. Preventing childhood lead poisoning is also part of the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI), a systems change effort begun in 2011, where community based organizations, and public and private funders coordinate resources and programs to make homes energy efficient, lead safe and healthy for low-income families in Erie County.
Renewing Our Pledge: A Path to Ending Lead Poisoning of Buffalo’s Most Vulnerable Citizens
The Community Foundation, on behalf of a dedicated group of partners including the City of Buffalo and Erie County, was pleased to share a first-of-its-kind Lead Action Plan with the community on March 27, 2018. Recognizing that lead poisoning permanently reduces a child’s ability to learn and is preventable, the Center for Governmental Research (CGR) was commissioned to evaluate comprehensive lead poisoning data and conduct community interviews. The result is a report entitled: Renewing Our Pledge: A Path to Ending Lead Poisoning of Buffalo’s Most Vulnerable Citizens.
Buffalo & Erie County Lead Safe Task Force
Reducing lead poisoning cannot be accomplished by any one player. The Community Foundation convenes the Buffalo and Erie County Lead Safe Task Force, comprised of the City of Buffalo, Erie County government, the Buffalo Public Schools, the medical community, non-profit leaders, philanthropy, and residents. This team is charged with ensuring that the recommendations are implemented, monitored and reported to the community on a bi-annual basis.
In a study commissioned by the Lead Safe Task Force, the data clearly showed that the City of Buffalo has some of the highest rates of lead exposure in the nation. In September 2020, New York State’s Attorney General took an important step forward by filing a lawsuit against a local landlord who is accused of repeatedly violating lead hazard laws, which resulted in many children being poisoned.
In 2020, the City of Buffalo passed critical legislation—prioritized by the Lead Safe Task Force—that will expand the city inspectors’ ability to conduct interior inspections of residential rental units. The City was also able to secure $2.3 million in federal funding to address this issue.
The Buffalo & Erie County Lead Safe Task Force has provided a progress update on a collaborative effort to protect children from lead poisoning. To see a list of the collective results of its 2020 work, please click here.
As part of this progress update, the partners unveiled a public education campaign entitled “Get Ahead of Lead.” Many homeowners and landlords found themselves with more time in 2020 to make improvements, creating a critical opportunity to educate do-it-yourselfers on the importance of lead-safe practices. In the fall of 2020, the advertising component of the “Get Ahead of Lead” campaign launched. Developed by landlords for landlords, billboards, bus wraps and posters were launched to encourage landlords to visit GetAheadofLead.org, where they can easily find tips and resources to keep themselves and their renters protected from lead.
The Erie County Department of Health has the following programs entirely dedicated to support the elimination of lead poisoning:
- Lead Poisoning Primary Prevention Program – Prevention of lead poisoning in children from being exposed to lead hazards. Click here.
- Lead Hazard Reduction Demonstration Program – Remediation and control of lead hazards available to property owners, qualifying families, and home-based day cares. Click here.
By working together, we can Get Ahead of Lead!