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Syracuse, county ramping up lead prevention efforts

Members from the Syracuse Lead Paint Prevention Coalition and the city’s Lead Hazard Control Program coordinator  Kenan Lewis stand behind a podium by the steps of Syracuse City Hall.
John Smith
Syracuse Lead Paint Prevention Coalition and the city’s Lead Hazard Control Program coordinator Kenan Lewis discuss increased prevention for lead poisoning outside Syracuse City Hall, Oct.25, 2022.

The city and county secured millions of dollars for lead paint remediation. Both are aggressively managing lead poisoning in children and stepping up their enforcement of the lead abatement ordinance by assuring residents and landlords know funding is available.

Lead poisoning in kids is a real problem within the city of Syracuse. Exposure to lead substances can cause developmental disabilities and health issues. Oceanna Fair of Families for Lead Freedom Now knows first-hand the damage lead poisoning can cause. She said her brother tested positive for lead poisoning at 2 years old. But that wasn’t the last time the problem affected her family.

"Years later I had naively assumed, like many families, that lead poisoning had been solved, until my 4-year-old granddaughter was poisoned," Fair said. "And it was traced to the home I was renting at the time.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic prevented citizens from accessing lead testing at home. Now, the city is prepared to visit homes and rental properties regularly.

The new coordinator of the city’s Lead Hazard Control Program, Kenan Lewis, said lead poisoning in children is a preventable poison due to the substantial cause being Syracuse’s old housing stock. He said the office will require property owners, managers and contractors to adhere to lead remediation guidelines to reduce potential hazards and further exposure.

“The Lead Hazard Control Office will also work with community agencies, local coalitions, local laboratories, property owners, contractors and any additional allies and stakeholders in order to help reduce lead surfaces and the presence of lead-based paint in our community," Lewis said.

However, the lack of CDC-certified contractors makes remediating homes built before 1978 a challenge. The city’s lead program grant administrator coordinator, Jessica Vinciguerra, said while there’s a focus on preventing lead poisoning in kids, adults can get it too.

“There’s contractors who maybe aren’t lead certified who don’t know the right methods to take and they’re getting lead poisoning, they’re getting kidney disease, they’re having to go to the hospital to get chelation therapy," Vinciguerra said.

Tenants or homeowners with kids 6 and younger who want a property tested for lead may apply by emailing

John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.