City Landlords, Homeowners Should Opt In To Lead Poisoning Prevention Program

We hope that something a county Health Department officials relayed to City Council members by City Councilwoman Vickye James, D-Ward 3, isn’t true.

During the council’s work session last week, members of the council’s Housing Committee heard from Natalia Whiteman of the county Health Department about the county’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. 40 percent of children under the age of 6 in Jamestown have higher levels of lead in their blood than is recommended, the eighth-highest number in New York state. The county Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program provides funding and education to homeowners with lead-based paint hazards. Those numbers aren’t surprising. Vince DeJoy, city development director, said a few years ago that it was difficult to get city homeowners and landlords to participate in the program. The county’s lead prevention grant is still active through the end of the year. Anyone who thinks there may be lead-based paint in their home should take advantage of the program before it’s gone.

It’s bad enough many landlords and homeowners in Jamestown turn a blind eye toward lead paint in their homes. What James was told by a Health Department official on Monday, according to a report by WRFA, is particularly galling if it is indeed true.

“She said the landlords are warning tenants not to let them in and if there is anything we can suggest to help them get into the apartments it would be greatly appreciated,” James said.

Such behavior is one reason why the city should have a rental registration law with some teeth. According to the World Health Organization, young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead and can suffer profound and permanent adverse health effects in the development of the brain and nervous system. Lead also causes long-term harm in adults, including increased risk of high blood pressure and kidney damage. Exposure of pregnant women to high levels of lead can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight, as well as minor malformations.

Lead paint poisoning is preventable. It doesn’t cost much to take care of lead paint problems in a house, and much of the cost can be paid by the federal grant money this year. If landlords won’t participate on their own, then city and county officials should create a mechanism compelling them to do so.