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Frequently Asked Questions 
Lead (Pb)

What is lead?

Lead is a metal that has been mined for thousands of years and is highly toxic. Lead is found everywhere in the human environment. It can be harmful to humans when eaten or inhaled, particularly to children under the age of 6. In the past, lead was used to make common items such as paint, gasoline, solder, water pipes, crystal, ceramics, and food cans. 


The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (“DOHMH” or “the Department”) is writing to inform you that effective June 11th, NYC will have new lower lead in dust standards. Local Law 66 of 2019 outlines new lead reference/action levels and standards relating to lead-based paint hazards. 

The new standards apply to all clearance dust wipe samples collected in New York City on or after June 11, 2019. Please see the attached document for more important information.

Should you have any questions about the above requirements, please email questions to the DOHMH’s Healthy Homes Program at referencing “New lead in dust standards.” Please also provide your name and phone number with your inquiry.

What is Local law 1?

Local law 1 is the New York City Childhood Lead Poisoning ACT of 2003. The purpose of the law is to prevent lead paint hazard in housing and day care facilities. The law requires landlords to follow certain rules meant to help prevent children from being lead-poisoned.


Local law 1 applies to apartments and common areas of buildings:

  • Built before 1960 (or built between 1960 and 1978 if your landlord knows that the building contains lead paint),

  • With 3 or more apartments, and

  • Where a child under 7 years of age lives.


The law presumes that paint in these buildings is lead-based paint. On turnover (when a tenant moves out), all rental units, including those in 1- and 2-family homes, are covered by the law.


Please click here to see a copy of the law.


What is EPA RRP Rule?

EPA's Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP Rule) requires that firms performing renovation, repair, and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities and pre-schools built before 1978 have their firm certified by EPA (or an EPA authorized state), use certified renovators who are trained by EPA-approved training providers and follow lead-safe work practices.


Click here to see full information on EPA website.


Evaluating and eliminating Lead-based Paint Hazards

Lead paint is serious business. Lead inspection and lead risk assessment are useful first steps which can lead to more thoughtful decisions on managing lead paint and lead hazards. Lead abatement is an activity designed to permanently eliminate lead-based paint hazards. Abatement is sometimes ordered by a state or local government, and can involve specialized techniques not typical of most residential contractors. EPA requires individuals and firms who perform abatement projects in pre-1978 target housing and child-occupied facilities to be certified and follow specific work practices.


What is lead poisoning? 
Your child may have lead poisoning without you even knowing it because your child may not look sick. Some children with lead poisoning may have learning disabilities and other health problems. Lead poisoning can be detected with a simple blood test given by your child's doctor. Lead poisoning is also preventable.


How do children get lead poisoning? 
Children can swallow lead dust or soil that contains lead from paint by putting their hands or toys in their mouth. Lead makes things taste sweet, so children and pets are attracted to the taste of lead paint chips and especially to lead dust. It only takes lead dust equal to two grains of sugar a day on a child's fingertip transferred to the mouth, for perhaps a month, to cause that child's nerve velocity to decrease, making the child slower both physically and mentally. The only way to know for sure if your child has lead poisoning is with a simple blood test. Your doctor can perform the test and explain the results.


When should my child be tested for lead poisoning? 
Screening should start at six months if the child is at risk for lead exposure (for example, if the child lives in a home built before 1978, with peeling or chipping paint). Decisions about further lead testing should be based on previous blood-lead test results, and the child's risk of lead exposure. In some states, more frequent lead screening is required by law.


What should I do to prevent my child from getting lead poisoning? 
Serve 3 meals a day that are high in iron and calcium to help prevent lead from being absorbed into your child's body. Wash children's' hands before eating, going to bed and after playing outside. Keep children away from peeling paint. Keep your home clean, wet mop floors, wipe furniture, window sills and other dusty surfaces often. Wash children's toys, bottles and pacifiers often.


What are the chances my older home has lead-based paint?  How can I tell if it does?

The older the home, the higher the chance it contains lead-based paint (LBP). A rule of thumb: built before 1950 -- probably LBP both inside and out. Between 1950 and 1960 -- probably LBP outside, maybe not inside. Between 1961 and 1970 --some chance for outside LBP, probably not inside. Between 1971 and 1978 -- slight chance of LBP.

NOTE:  though LBP was essentially banned in 1978, some existing LBP might have been used for two or more years afterwards (i.e., to 1980 or 1981).  The only way to tell positively if you have LBP is to have it properly tested by a professional.  


Who is most at risk of lead poisoning and why? I'm sure my kids won't eat lead paint. If they got it on their hands, I surely would see it. 

Children under six years old are most at risk because their brains and nervous systems are still developing. Of these, children between ages one and three are especially vulnerable, since they are walking, playing, and crawling on the floors where lead dust can accumulate. They get the dust into their bodies through hand-to-mouth activity. They also put toys and pacifiers in their mouths which have fallen on the floor. Lead makes things taste sweet. The Romans used lead to sweeten their wines. So children and pets are attracted to the taste of lead paint chips and especially to lead dust. Put two single grains of sugar on the bottom of a fingertip. Do you see it? It only takes lead dust equal to two grains of sugar a day on a child's fingertips then transferred to the mouth, for perhaps a month, to cause that child's nerve velocity to decrease, making the child slower, both physically and mentally -- perhaps for life. While the change may not be easily noticeable, it could cost a budding scholar or athlete their competitive edge.  


But didn't we all grow up with lead? They even used it in gasoline. What's the big deal now?  

That's true. The lead alert level used to be 40 micrograms per deciliter of whole blood until the mid seventies, then it was reduced to 30 in the mid eighties, 25 between 1985 and 1992, and currently, 10. It wasn't until we took it out of gasoline in the mid seventies to mid eighties that we were able to discern how devastating it can be, especially to children under six years of age. So most of us could probably have been smarter and faster than we are. NOTE: Pregnant women can also transfer lead in their blood streams to a developing fetus at concentrations only half the present alert level (also called level of concern). Lead was used in gasoline because it increased the efficiency of the gasoline while also lubricating the valves. But now we know: while lead has many uses, they can come with a high, toxic price tag.  Now that we know how toxic lead is, we want to take every precaution which is practicable to control it and prevent serious health effects. The cost of ignoring it are too great in decreased capabilities, earnings and enjoyment of life. It makes both good health and economic sense to take proper precautions now.  


Testing for Lead


How can I tell if my home contains lead-based paint?

The older your home, the more likely it contains lead-based paint. For example, 87% of homes built before 1940 have some lead-based paint, while 24% of homes built between 1960 and 1978 have some lead-based paint. Lead-based paint may be present in private single-family homes or apartments, government-assisted, or public housing, and in urban, suburban, or rural settings. If you want to know whether or not your home contains lead-based paint, EPA recommends one of the following:


- Assume your home contains lead-based paint and take the appropriate precautions. In pre-1978 homes and buildings, this is the simplest and safest approach.

- Hire a certified professional to check for lead-based paint. A certified lead-based paint inspector or risk assessor can conduct an inspection to determine whether your home or a portion of your home has lead-based paint and where it is located. This will tell you the areas in your home where lead-safe work practices should be used for renovation, repair, or painting jobs. A certified risk assessor can conduct a risk assessment telling you whether your home currently has any lead hazards from lead in paint, dust, or soil. The risk assessor can also tell you what actions to take to address any hazards.

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