Lead Poisoning Continues to be an Issue in Onondaga County Lead Poisoning Continues to be an Issue in Onondaga County

Lead poisoning is on the rise, which has sparked some funding in the budget.

ANCHOR: Onondaga county’s budget with funding for lead programming goes into effect next January. Zach Kopelman (COE-pole-men) reports that not everyone is satisfied with where the funding is going.

COUNTY CLERK: 16 ayes, one opposed. Number one is adopted

ZACH KOPELMAN: It was quiet in the courtroom after the vote. But county residents have been anything but quiet recently. An aquarium was given 85 million dollars while only five million was allocated to lead. S-U professor Sandra Lane says more needs to be done.

SANDRA LANE: “It’s inadequate, completely inadequate. We have 600 children per year who are lead poisoned.”

ZACH KOPELMAN: Lane says lead poisoning can lead to a variety of problems down the road, with it being linked to teen violence and arrests.

SANDRA LANE: “They had better make the aquarium bulletproof, because we have more and more of our adolescents shooting guns and killing each others.”

ZACH KOPELMAN: Onondaga county’s testing data shows that lead poisoning has been on the rise since 2020. Zach Kopelman, N-C-C News

SYRACUSE N.Y. (NCC News) – Carla Mason has been working with the city of Syracuse for four years to remove lead from her home. Despite this, city inspectors recently told her the lead levels in her home have gone up since work began.

The biggest issue: funding. Work has stopped on the home for a while now, and the methods contractors used have caused lead paint from the window sills in her bathroom to seep into the walls and ceiling. she said.

“We’ve been going through this since 2019,” Mason said. ” They just keep painting over it.”

Mason’s home is not the only area home to have lead paint covered up,  according to Syracuse University Professor Sandra Lane. Lane said this can actually cause more problems than it solves because when the new paint chips off, lead dust will fill the air.

“If the child gets the equivalent of one or two or three grains of sugar of paint dust from a window sill, it’s enough to poison the child,” Lane explained. “The window sills need to be fixed. Right now the city is going in and painting over them.”

Lead poisoning is not a new issue for county residents. Almost 5% of children in Onondaga County and more than 10% of Syracuse children in 2021 tested positive for elevated blood lead levels, according to the Onondaga County Health Department. Those numbers are on the rise from 2020, as well.

Concerns over the rising positive tests in children were  part of the reason for the $5 million dollar allocation to lead programming in the county budget that goes into effect next year. County Legislator Julie Abbott praised the funding as a sign that legislators are listening to their community.

“I’m very proud of what we do here at the county because clearly, this budget shows that we hear you,” said Abbot, at the budget approval meeting. “Five  million dollars for lead abatement… we’re talking about money for kids.”

Lane and Mason object to the idea that they are heard, though. Mason said  she has relied on other organizations, such as the Syracuse Tenants Union, to fight to fix her home. Lane said her biggest issue is the difference in funding for lead abatement and the new aquarium project.

“$85 million for fish, and only $5 million for children’s brains,” Lane said. “I’m fed up.”

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Zach Kopelman

Zach Kopelman is a Broadcast and Digital Journalism student at Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Public Communications. He is from Long Hill, New Jersey, a small town in Morris County. When he is not working on a story for NCC News, Zach works for other campus media like WAER and has previously worked at Rochester's Democrat and Chronicle newspaper. In his free time, Zach enjoys going to the gym, spending time with friends and family, and watching the New York Knicks.

Other stories by Zach Kopelman

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