Syracuse, N.Y. (NCC News) — County Executive Ryan McMahon and Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said the city and the county has made progress on fighting lead poisoning, but the fight isn’t over yet.
Walsh and McMahon held a press conference to kickoff Lead Poisoning Prevention Week at the Civic Center in Downtown Syracuse Monday morning. It comes at a time where lead poisoning is still prevalent in the city and county, but Walsh said there has been much progress in the effort to reduce lead poisoning, and take out lead paint from older homes.
“In just over the last two months, an additional 700 violations have been cited and over 300 unique properties,” Mayor Ben Walsh said.
Walsh said that more than 3,000 lead or deteriorated paint violations have been cited after the city implemented its ordinance a little over a year ago, committing to more inspections.
Data from the Onondaga County Health Department show an overall downward trend in children tested and identified with elevated blood levels from 2012-2022. In Onondaga County, the 2022 figure increased to 510 children, the highest recorded number since 2019. It is nearly 50 percent lower than the 2012 number of 1,050 children.
In Syracuse, the numbers are similar. 2022 saw 458 children tested and identified with elevated blood levels in the city. That’s down from 2012 where there were 836 children, but up from 2020 and 2021, where 356 and 396 children were identified, respectively.
Walsh and McMahon say that the process to eradicate lead poisoning in the area is ongoing.
“We continue to build our community of workers in the field, getting inspectors and contractors,” Walsh said. “That’s an important piece, getting contractors the required certifications and training so we can meet the growing demands of testing and remediation.”
McMahon said that very young children are at higher risk of being exposed due to their behaviors and their biology. County Health Department Data also show that Black and Multiracial children are more likely than white people to have elevated blood lead levels, at 10.9% and 7.0%, respectively, compared to 1.8% for white people.
“If we want to achieve health equity, we know that reducing the burden of lead in our community needs to remain a primary focus,” McMahon said.