Syracuse Leads The Way for Lead Prevention Syracuse Leads The Way for Lead Prevention

Onondaga County received government funding to help combat the sickness.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — Forest Ecologist Dani Yashinovitz lives with five others in an over 100-year-old home in Syracuse, New York. She says when she opens her window and vent, she gets sick.

“A lot of dust is like in the house and it’s floating around and we all get a bit of allergies from it. What is in that dust?” asked Yashinovitz .

Lead could be in that dust.

She ripped the paint right off the wall because it was bothering her, she said.

Almost all of Onondaga County’s homes that were built before 1978 used lead-based paint*.Yashinovitz has been living in her home for three years and has always wondered about her exposure.

“All of the walls are painted. All of the window frames are painted. All of the door frames are painted,” said Yashinovitz while looking around the room. “We would all have lead poisoning, we would all be hospitalized.”

If a house has chippings and peelings of paint, it may be a sign to get it looked at as soon as possible. Lead inspections can be expensive, but Onondaga County received some funding that may help with that.

City Hall plaque
The plaque outside the Syracuse City Hall building shined in the sun.
© 2019 Morgan Trau

“This is by far the most money we have ever had dedicated to this problem in the region – ever,” said Syracuse Common Councilor Joseph Driscoll.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is giving Onondaga County $5.6 million in federal aid for lead paint removal. Driscoll is one of the leading activists that fought for this funding.

“This is the main issue that made me want to get into politics. I saw how it was effecting Syracuse.”

The grant is dedicated to cleaning windows, doors and the inside of houses, Driscoll said.

“I think that the hope is with these grants that we will be able to do about 250-300 properties, somewhere there,” he added.

AlthoughYashinovitz is concerned about her house, she would rather someone else receive the benefits.

“I really feel like there are a lot of neighborhoods in Syracuse that are probably forgotten and I would love to see them use that to help them,” she said.

Driscoll agreed with this sentiment.

“Low-income bracket families are stuck in this cycle. It is their houses mainly. This affects North and South Syracuse more than it affects East,” he said on how the local government is looking into helping every kind of family.

He is not satisfied with what he has done yet, though.

Two people sitting
Syracuse Common Councilor Joseph Driscoll with Reporter Morgan Trau.
© 2003 Morgan Trau

“I feel like the Greek proverb: ‘A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in,’ but I am not satisfied yet. I keep thinking I am making no progress but then I look back and I see… I am. I just need to keep working.”


What is Lead Poisoning?

Lead poisoning occurs when lead builds up in the body, often over months or years, according to The Mayo Clinic.

Even small amounts of lead can cause serious health problems. Children younger than 6 years are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can severely affect mental and physical development. At very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal.


What is lead found?

  • Lead in paint
  • Water pipes
  • Soil. Lead particles from leaded gasoline or paint settle on soil and can last years.
  • Household dust. Household dust can contain lead from lead paint chips or from contaminated soil brought in from outside.
  • Pottery Glazes
  • Toys. Lead is sometimes found in toys and other products.
  • Cosmetics
  • Herbal or folk remedies
  • Mexican candy
  • Lead bullets
  • Some Occupations. Like auto repair, mining, pipe fitting, battery manufacturing, painting, and construction.

Warning Signs of Lead-Paint Exposure

In Infants:

  • Be born prematurely
  • Have lower birth weight
  • Have slowed growth

In Children:

  • Developmental delay
  • Learning difficulties
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Sluggishness and fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Hearing loss
  • Seizures
  • Eating things, such as paint chips, that aren’t food (pica)

In Adults:

  • High blood pressure
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Difficulties with memory or concentration
  • Headache
  • Feeling sick
  • Abdominal pain
  • Mood disorders
  • Reduced sperm count and abnormal sperm
  • Miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth in pregnant women


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