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Syracuse lawmakers hope new law will bring down rate of lead paint exposure

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News (file photo)

The city of Syracuse this week begins the process of putting a law on the books that addresses lead poisoning. Officials hope it can make a dent in the city's high rate of lead exposure in children.

Currently, the presence of lead in rental housing isn’t a code violation. The city can’t force landlords to replace poisoned lead paint on walls, doors and windows. That would all change if a new ordinance is approved, according to Syracuse Common Councilor Joe Driscoll.

"What this will do is clarify that it is, in fact, a code violation and when code inspectors go in to check with rental registry, they’ll be doing dust swipes to make sure lead is not a hazard," Driscoll said.

City lawmakers today are expected to vote on moving ahead with a draft environmental impact statement that starts the process of public comment on the proposal. Driscoll hopes it becomes law in April, and admits it’s a big deal for the city codes department.

"It’s a seismic shift for codes, because we have to train up all the inspectors on how to do this, and develop a lot of new systems in order to implement this program," he said.

Driscoll has been pushing this idea for two years. He said it’s worth it because more than 10% of children test positive for lead paint poisoning in Onondaga County. But that number jumps to more than 20% in some city neighborhoods. Presence of lead in a child’s blood can lead to reduced motor skills, aggressive behavior and learning disabilities among other things.

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.