CM Treyger cites health risks to young children
New York City’s ancient school buildings are long overdue for testing for lead paint, according to Brooklyn Councilmember Mark Treyger, who pushed for legislation to mandate testing in elementary schools to protect kids from the health hazards of lead exposure.
“No parent should ever send their child to school worried about the possibility of exposure to lead poisoning,” said Treyger, who is the chairperson of the Council’s Education Committee.
The Council unanimously approved a Treyger-sponsored bill on March 13 to mandate testing for lead in all school buildings constructed before 1978 where classes are held for children as young as six years of age. Testing would include elementary schools, pre-schools and nursery schools.
The year 1978 is the cut-off point in the legislation because that is the year New York City officially banned the use of lead-based paint, a spokesperson for Treyger told the Brooklyn Reporter.
Under the bill, the city would have to remediate any lead problems within 45 days. In addition, school officials would be required to provide copies of the testing results to parents.
“We have a responsibility to ensure that our city’s approach to education prioritizes the needs and the health of our students. This bill is a measure to help us meet our responsibility to protect the health of every child in our city,” said Treyger, a Democrat who represents Coney Island, Gravesend and parts of Bensonhurst.
Long-term exposure to lead can result in serious health issues, including headaches, stomach pain, anemia and behavioral problems, especially in young children, according to the website kidshealth.org.
Children are at a greater risk because their still-growing bodies absorb lead and retain it more easily, according to the website. More than 300,000 children between the ages of one and five are found to have unsafe lead levels in their blood each year in the U.S., the website reported.
Deteriorated lead-based paint is one of the most common sources of lead exposure in children, experts said.
Anna Lembersky, president of the District 21 Community Education Council, said her district would probably qualify for testing under the Treyger bill. “Our buildings are old,” she told the Brooklyn Reporter.
It’s vital that parents be notified of the test results in their children’s schools, Lembersky said.
“We have never had a problem with lead paint. We had a situation in one of our schools with elevated levels of lead in the water. The parents received notices immediately,” she said, adding that the situation was quickly addressed by the city. “They came in and fixed it right away. They upgraded the piping,” she said.
The bill has been sent to Mayor Bill de Blasio for his signature.