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Lead Paint Poisoning
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More Kids Exposed To Lead

Mar 15, 2003 | Democrat and Chronicle Another 1,200 children in Monroe County were exposed to lead poisoning in 2002, according to the Rochester Lead Free Coalition.

That number has remained constant over the last three years, which means the problem isn’t getting worse but it’s not getting any better, said Dr. Richard Kennedy, a physician at the community health clinic at School 17 in northwest Rochester, a neighborhood with the fourth-highest lead toxicity rating in New York state.

Kennedy spoke Friday at the University of Rochester, which helped sponsor a meeting designed to call for more government action to help rid neighborhood of homes with lead-based paint.

Lead in the blood can cause neurological damage as well as problems with attention span and intellectual development. Some studies have placed Rochester among the 10 U.S. cities with the worst lead problems.

The speakers outlined areas of progress:
Rochester Mayor William A. Johnson Jr.’s plan to spend at least $5 million over the next three years to replace windows, doors and porches in some of its poorest neighborhoods.
Monroe County’s $2 million federal grant, obtained in January, to test housing units and help rehabilitate them.

Also on Friday, the United Way of Greater Rochester said it would get involved in the lead-free campaign. Plans will be announced in a few months.

“We’ve made this issue our number one public policy issue,” said Kathy Lewis, director of the United Way’s community partnership program.

The Rochester Lead Free Coalition’s goal is to end lead poisoning in Monroe County by 2010. Public financing has been one of the biggest obstacles.

The county, Kennedy noted, will conduct home inspections only to assess what’s needed for corrective action if a child has lead levels that exceed 20 micrograms per deciliter.

But lead exposure below 20 micrograms still causes terrible neurological damage, Kennedy said.

Dr. Andrew Doniger, director of the Monroe County Health Department, said in January that conducting home inspections when the level is below 20 micrograms per deciliter is a possibility in the future but given the county resources available won’t happen right away.

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