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Hawkins calls for tougher safety standards to prevent lead poisoning

Ellen Abbott
WRVO Public Media
Howie Hawkins.

Green party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins called on the state Wednesday to get tougher when it comes to preventing lead poisoning in children.

Hawkins said it is a crime that so many children across New York State have elevated lead levels in their blood. He proposed five steps to deal with what he called a crisis, including a state law that would require that all rental units have lead-safe certification, before a family moves in.

"It’s going to be a big cost to abate this lead," Hawkins said. "But this will get landlords to invest money as well, because we’re going to need a private contribution. I’d allow for time to phase that in, but not too much time, because the kids are getting poisoned.”

Hawkins also wants to see New York require annual testing for lead in drinking water at schools and adopt the more stringent federal safety standard for lead levels in blood tests.

"The state should adopt the federal standards of 5 micrograms per deciliter instead of 10 micrograms per deciliter," Hawkins said. "That’s what medical science says it should be, that's what the state should have.”

Hawkins said the war against lead poisoning is 46 years old, and requires a strong state commitment, which he said is missing in New York.

"The problem is, the government looks after the people that are paying the campaign contributions," Hawkins said. "In urban politics, and if you look at Cuomo’s donors, real estate is huge, and they don’t want the expense of fixing up their rental properties.”

High lead levels, often caused by lead paint in older housing, can hurt a child’s academic performance, memory and motor skills.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.