State Senator Tim Kennedy, Dakota Taylor, State Senator Gustavo Rivera and Tiesha Jones.
Courtesy Office of Senator Rivera
As NYCHA facilities were built pre-1978 need lead abatement and removal, many of its residents do not realize they are surrounded by lead.
One lawmaker realized the dangers people face living in these buildings and recently took action. On June 9, Senator Gustavo Rivera’s bill, Dakota’s Law (S5024B), which would establish a comprehensive system of measures that prevent and address instances of elevated blood lead levels in children, passed the State Senate.
The legislation aims to prevent and address childhood lead poisoning and exposure by requiring lead screenings at every routine visit or annually for children until the age of 6-years-old. Health care providers will also provide parents or guardians of children guidance on lead poisoning prevention, including their right to an inspection if the child is an area of high risk. The bill will also require pre-k and kindergarten institutions to check if their enrolling students have been screened for lead exposure and provide them with educational materials on lead poisoning.
This is the first part of Dakota’s Law, a multi-bill effort to enhance New York’s childhood lead poisoning prevention measures.
Dakota’s Law was written with Tiesha Jones, Senator Rivera’s constituent, based on her and her child’s experience with elevated blood lead levels. Jones was living in a NYCHA apartment with her family and took Dakota to the doctor for appropriate testing at the required ages, 12- and 24-months-old. Upon changing doctors at age 4, she was offered a lead screening and within this time frame, Dakota’s blood lead levels increased from 5 micrograms to 45. This left Dakota with permanent developmental challenges that affect her education.
“Children are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of lead from infancy until age 6,” Rivera said. “This incredible effort, spearheaded by the tireless work of Ms. Tiesha Jones, will make a real difference in the lives of millions of children and parents in New York. We must do everything in our power to end lead poisoning in New York State and ensure our children are living in safe and healthy environments.”
The passage of this bill builds on the successful effort by Rivera to lower New York’s State’s action level from 10 micrograms to 5, in accordance with recommendations from the United States Center for Disease Control. Children under 6 whose blood lead levels reach 10 micrograms face developmental toxicity, or permanent damage, due to lead exposure. By taking action when a child has a blood lead level of 5 micrograms, it will prevent permanent damage by addressing the source of lead exposure and preventing lead poisoning.