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Syracuse Lawmaker Took Lead on Fighting Lead Poisoning, Though Progress Still Delayed

The Stand File Photo


This past summer marked a pivotal moment of Syracuse’s battle against childhood lead poisoning. The Common Council passed the city’s first lead ordinance, codifying some of the best practices for mitigating the impact into law. Council Member Joe Driscoll pushed hard for this legislation.


Common Councilor Joe Driscoll has been fighting to eradicate lead poisoning in Syracuse since his election in 2017. With some of the highest rates of poisoning in America, it was an obvious cause for Driscoll, who saw lead poisoning as a major barrier, particularly for low income communities of color. 

Credit The Stand File Photo
councilor joe Driscoll took on the issue and helped pass the lead law. 


Syracuse has one of the worst lead crisis in the nation… This is already an unjust situation of economic inequality. And then for it to increase the obstacles that those individuals would be facing just seemed like injustice on top of injustice to me. 

In response to the crisis, the common council passed its first lead ordinance Sover summer 2020. 

The biggest thing that it does as, as a foundational element is establish the basis that all housing stock built before 1978 when lead paint was banned are now considered potential lead hazards 

The ordinance also made lead a code violation, another step which allows the city to intervene and remediate homes with lead, and allocated funding for lead abatement for affected homes.

We check the environment and hopefully we can beat the problem before it surfaces.  

But coronavirus has slowed the implementation process. Budget deficits and furloughs across city government have prevented new hires, and in-person training sessions became impossible 

We  had hoped to implement it early in 2021. We had hoped by now we would have a lot of it in place and we'd be moving forward. And now it's looking more like early 2022 

While the lead ordinance marks significant changes to Syracuse’s approach to lead, it is only the beginning of the journey to a lead free city. Next week, we’ll meet some community members in the non-profit sector who have been fighting alongside, and sometimes against, the government for a lead free Syracuse. 

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.