JAMESTOWN, NY (WNY News Now) — Last week, the Community Health Assessment and Community Health Improvement Plan for Chautauqua County addressed concerns of high lead levels in the community.
Jamestown was recently ranked the seventh highest lead paint hot spot in the state and was flagged as having the highest number of lead poisoned children.
“In Chautauqua County 52.7 percent of homes were built prior to 1950. And lead paint was not banned until 1978 so we have a significant number of homes within our county that still have lead paint. So the message is, for folks thinking about doing any sort of renovations to your house, if you have a house that was built sometime before 1978, the Health Department can work with you to get some lead testing done,” says Dr. Michael Faulk.
Interim Public Health Director Dr. Michael Faulk says when lead paint is unknowingly scraped off for renovations, dust can accumulate which becomes dangerous for children. Lead poisoning in children can affect their neurological development.
In 2021, the county Lead Poisoning Prevention Program was awarded a $3 million Lead Hazard Control grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to remediate lead hazards identified in eligible households.
“We wanna make sure that when children need to be tested, they’re getting tested. We wanna break down any of those barriers if there are any and continue pushing on education in regards to lead and lead poisoning because it is a real thing and it’s not something that we all think about. You can’t see it, you can’t taste it but in older homes it’s probably there,” says Dr. Faulk.
Governor Kathy Hochul also noted lead as a problem area within her State of the State address, promising that funding will be coming to communities in need.
Data from 2016 to 2019 shows the statewide rate of dangerous lead levels (5 mcg/dl) in children at 12.1 per 1000, while the rate in Chautauqua County is at 40.3 per 1000, over three times higher.