Even as the city's new lead paint abatement law went into effect on Friday, the community group Make the Road By Walking has found new evidence that the problem is epidemic in Bushwick, right in the heart of the city's “lead paint belt.”
The group conducted a quick-and-dirty survey, hiring an independent lead-testing firm to examine 18 apartments near its offices on Grove Street. Out of those apartments, only two were lead paint-free. All in all, two-thirds of the walls, edges and windowsills tested had evidence of lead paint, and in many cases, it was either peeling or on objects that were easily within a child's reach.
Lead paint, which was outlawed decades ago, causes irreversible brain damage in children when they eat the chips or breathe the dust. But Make the Road By Walking found something else in these lead-paint-coated homes: little kids, who are most likely to ingest paint and are the most sensitive to its poisonous effects.
In one apartment at 306 Grove Street, a mother was coping with peeling paint in the kitchen and bedroom–and three kids under 5 years of age. One of her children had previously been diagnosed with blood lead levels almost five times above the health standard.
“Everybody had lead except the two who already had done something about it,” explained Samantha Adomaitis, who worked on the survey. “[Bushwick's] rates of lead poisoning are the highest in the city, but we wanted to see how bad it was among the people we work with. What we found is that it's pretty ridiculous.”
Under the new law, passed last summer to the dismay of health and environmental activists who wanted a stronger regulation, landlords get a much longer time period to fix peeling paint–the housing agency will only step in after more than six months. Lead paint that isn't peeling but is easily accessible to toddlers, like paint on windowsills or door frames, doesn't have to be removed at all. Landlords have fewer obligations, and the reporting and clean-up process is much less strict.