Immediate Release

Thursday, October 18, 2007 

For Information Contact

798-5800

Picente, Julian Announce Major New Effort

To Prevent Lead Poisoning in Utica

 

Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente, Jr. and Utica Mayor Timothy J. Julian today announced that the Oneida County Health Department’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program has been awarded a $273,556 “Primary Prevention of Lead Poisoning Pilot Project” grant from the New York State Department of Health to protect children under the age of six from lead poisoning.

“This program represents a landmark change in our efforts to fight lead poisoning,” Picente said. “Historically, the primary role of County Government has been to work with families to diagnose lead poisoning. This funding moves us in the direction we need to go – working with families to prevent lead poisoning.”

Picente said the grant provides the Health Department with additional authority to augment its existing efforts. “ The expanded powers under this grant will give the Health Department authority to act prior to the child becoming lead poisoned and will permit the Health Department to request assistance with the enforcement of Public Health violations,” Picente said. “In short, we can now work with families that are at risk because of where they live, and help prevent lead from ruining the promise of the lives of our community’s children.”

Picente added that under the grant, the Oneida County Health Department will designate the highest risk census tracts in the City of Utica as those areas at serious risk for childhood lead poisoning. This will permit the County’s health department and the City of Utica to work collaboratively to use the services of the Codes Officers and Fire Department Rental Occupancy Program staff to treat chipping and peeling paint violations currently cited under the Uniform Property Codes hazards as Public Health nuisance violations.

“This project accomplishes what we have long needed to do – bring the city and county together in the interest of the people we both serve,” Picente said. “When all of our agencies work as a team, we increase our ability to resolve this public health issue. We appreciate the State Government’s funding which enables us to respond to this crisis in a way that puts our efforts where we can have the greatest impact- on the lives of young children.”

Julian said the grant reflects the city’s commitment to deal with the issue of lead. “County Government’s efforts will dovetail with the city’s effort to step up our codes inspections and to ensure that families living in the areas of Utica, where lead is an issue in housing safety, have all the protection, information and support they need so that we can reduce the incidence of lead poisoning in our children,”

Picente said the wide-ranging project will create a database to identify newborns living in the highest risk census tracts and offer their families educational and prevention services to protect the infant from the harmful effects of lead exposure as well as utilizing targeted codes enforcement to insure infants and children under age six are protected from lead hazard exposure.

The grant will:

·        Train contractors, landlords, and ‘do it yourselfers’ in lead safe work practices to prevent lead poisoning from unsafe renovations.

·        Develop widespread outreach by enlisting home improvement retailers as partners in distributing information about lead safe work practices as well as providing the material to anyone receiving a building permit for renovations.

·        Develop alliances with all housing-related agencies in the City of Utica to work towards strategic and collaborative planning to remediate the largest number of dwelling units.

·        Develop a lead safe housing registry.

 Health Department Director Nicholas DeRosa said the grant’s goals include putting every newborn born in Year 2008 and beyond in Cornhill in a proverbial “lead safe bubble” by requiring landlords to fix lead hazards prior to the child turning 6 months of age, monitoring their blood lead levels for their first three years, and by providing the family with education on ways to protect their child from lead poisoning. “We’re setting a steep goal, but we need to set high goals and get results to fully address this issue,” DeRosa said.

            Announcement of the grant comes as Oneida County prepares to observe National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week from October 22-27. “Although this is a national week to concern ourselves with the issue of lead, our County Health Department is working to deal with lead poisoning issues every day and every week,” Picente said. He noted that the Health Department has already posted extensive information about preventing lead poisoning on the Oneida County Web Site, www.ocgov.net. Information is updated daily and includes lead toy recall section that parents can click on and obtain all the information they need to view the toys and return recalled toys to the manufacturer. Additional areas have been added for contractors, landlords, childcare providers, medical providers, and two pamphlets are available in PDF for residents to view or download on their home computer: “Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home” and “Lead Paint Field Guide”.