WIVB: "Community groups call on Buffalo to reduce lead poisoning among children"

Date: February 13, 2024

Dillon Morello | February 13, 2024

Community advocates and health professionals called on Buffalo leaders Tuesday to take action to reduce lead poisoning among children. They are also asking leaders to comply with the city’s rental inspections law, prompting the city to go back and forth with Erie County over how to make it happen.

“Erie County Department of Health is responsible for lead and lead paint hazards. It’s not the city of Buffalo. That is from New York State law, and Erie County is responsible for that,” said Cathy Amdur, Buffalo’s Commissioner of Permit and Inspection Services. “So, we are a piece of the puzzle. But one piece, not the whole solution here.”

New York law says the state’s health department is in charge of lead removal and poisoning prevention, a duty which is then passed on to county health departments.

However, in 2020 the Buffalo Common Council created the Proactive Rental Inspections Law. The law was meant to make sure rental properties are safe for tenants and are in compliance with city and building codes. The city told News 4 Friday that Common Council never funded that program yet is still conducting inspections.

“The city has performed 4,800 inspections and issued 415 certificates of rental compliance [since 2020],” Amdur said. “Just the first six weeks of this year already, we have done 140 inspections and issued 46 certificates, so it’s something we are continuing to actively work on.”

Still, advocates like George Nicholas, CEO of Buffalo Center for Health Equity, say the city is not doing enough to protect its children.

“Half the Black and brown children in this city live at or below the poverty level, and that means that many of them are living in substandard housing or housing that they are exposed to lead, mold and other things that will have a negative impact upon their health,” Nicholas said.

Advocates say a letter has been delivered to the city demanding full compliance with the PRI law, giving them a month to prove that inspectors have been fully implemented.

“There are 36,000 units covered by the PRI law, 36,000 units that are high-risk, that need to be inspected, that need to get these certificates of healthy compliance,” added Executive Director of Partnership for Good Andrea Ó Súilleabháin.

According to the letter, more than 200 Buffalo children are diagnosed with lead poisoning a year, the majority in rental units.

“Not only do you have the power, you also have the responsibility to protect these children and families,” Nicholas said.

The Erie County Department of Health has extensive information and resources for parents, renters and property owners at www.erie.gov/lead. Call (716) 961-6800 for more information.

Read the WIVB article on their website, here.