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Keeping Kids Safe from Lead Poisoning: Nonprofits' Role in Fighting for Healthy Homes & Buildings


Syracuse’s lead-poisoning crisis has been a focal point for non-profit organizations across the city, as they try to protect children from the serious health effects.  Many groups have played a crucial role in providing aid to Syracuse families, who face severe health impacts. They have also been pushing for a city-wide response to this ongoing public health crisis.

Non-profit organizations have long played a role in fighting Syracuse’s lead crisis. Paul Ciavarri is a community organizer for Legal Services of Central New York. He explains that as an organization that fights systemic equality, it only made sense for legal services to battle the effects of the lead crisis.

"Poisoning both is an outcome of inequality and a producer of inequality. ...  We have unsafe, unhealthy housing that the most marginalized communities of our society have been placed into."

Credit MySouthsideStand
Housing in low-income neighborhoods is often the problem where lead exposure occurs. 

Legal Services is also strongly tied to Families for Lead Freedom Now, a coalition of affected Syracuse residents fighting to end the city’s lead crisis. The Central New York Community Foundation is another local organization battling the epidemic of lead poisoning. President and CEO Peter Dunn shares: 

"The Community Foundation had been really deep on issues like literacy and college attainment and looking at issues affecting neighborhoods in the city of Syracuse. And we kept bumping into the issue of where people lived."

The connection between educational and professional outcomes and housing was impossible to overlook. The Community Foundation began to focus on providing window and door replacements for properties in the most high risk neighborhoods, and training professionals to safely and effectively remove lead from homes across the city. 

"There's actually a shortage of individuals who are certified, EPA certified, to do the work of removing lead hazards."

The Community Foundation also took a major step in publicly endorsing the 2020 lead ordinance.

"For the first time in our history, we took a public position on a legislative matter affecting the city of Syracuse," Dunn adds.

Syracuse’s lead crisis has drawn the attention of stakeholders across the city, from academics to legislators, non-profit leaders to mothers. But as COVID-19 continues to slow the implementation of the lead ordinance, it's clear the work of eradicating lead poisoning in Syracuse is just beginning.