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% 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.
The Community Foundation’s lead effort began with direct interventions in screening children for lead exposure and making homes lead safe. In support of these efforts, the Community Foundation was able to garner over $2.5 million from the New York State Office of the Attorney General and $2 million from Governor Cuomo and Empire State Development, in addition to other investments for public education and outreach.
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.
The study was funded by the City of Buffalo and early childhood funders including the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York, The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, The John R. Oishei Foundation and the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County. This assessment was advised by the WNY Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning and data support was provided by the Erie County Department of Health. The Partnership for Public Good also conducted community engagement.
This report is intended to develop a common understanding of the landscape for lead exposure and make strategic recommendations leading to a high-impact, collaborative community strategy to eliminate lead poisoning in Buffalo and Erie County. For the first time, City housing data and County health data have been joined for a clear picture of the location and type of housing most likely to poison our children. The focus of this plan is primary prevention, addressing the sources of lead hazards before children can be exposed.
Major findings include:
- Erie County has one of the highest blood lead testing rates in New York State with 61% of children born in 2012 tested twice by age 36 months.
- Lead poisoning rates in Erie County have plateaued in recent years.
- The majority of children with Elevated Blood Lead Levels (EBLLs) live in City of Buffalo single family homes and doubles owned by over 1,200 different property owners.
- Over 80% of the properties where children are lead poisoned are rental properties.
- Lead poisoning is more frequently found in low-income neighborhoods, but when lead poisoning occurs, the average Blood Lead Level (BLL) is similar across all neighborhoods and income levels.
- Despite collective progress in reducing lead poisoning, the Erie County Department of Health reports that in 2017 there were 290 new cases of blood level elevations of 10µg/dL or higher and 466 with blood lead levels of 5 µg/dL (countywide).
- Heightened awareness and improved policy have made a difference in reducing lead poisoning in peer cities, and examples of their work are included throughout this report.
Regardless of race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status, all children should have the opportunity to live in homes that are healthy, safe, energy efficient, and sustainable. With this fundamental premise, it is time for our region to strengthen its resolve to eliminate lead poisoning altogether. This comprehensive study on lead poisoning serves as a roadmap to strategically marshal the resources, policies, and practices needed to safeguard all children from lead exposure.
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.
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 Control 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 Wipe Out Lead!