The Central New York Community Foundation is taking the unusual step of endorsing proposed legislation that would empower Syracuse housing inspectors to test for the presence of lead paint. Their advocacy comes halfway into a four year, $2 million commitment to help end childhood lead poisoning.
President and CEO Peter Dunn says they’re doing what’s needed to attack the problem at its source.
“We made a decision to put some significant resources behind it, but we also decided we needed to do other things, and that means engaging with local government, and one of those things is policy,” Dunn said. “So we are, for the first time in our history, endorsing a piece of public policy in the form of this proposed city ordinance.”
The ordinance would allow inspectors conduct a wipe test for lead dust, in addition to noting flaking paint at a residence, mainly in rental properties. If lead is present, a landlord can receive a violation. Dunn says this proactive measure is actually nothing new.
“More than a dozen years ago, Rochester adopted a similar structure for their housing inspections, and lead poisoning rates have gone down by 90% in Rochester,” Dunn said. “So if we see an incredible amount of progress, we can emulate that.”
Dunn says the outcomes can be profound, from reduced rates of academic delays, to behavioral issues, and violence, which are all tied to lead poisoning. Around 10% of Syracuse children have elevated blood lead levels, but that number is up to 25% of children in some neighborhoods. The first public meeting on the city ordinance will be held Wednesday, February 12th at 5:30 p.m. in common council chambers.