For many years employees for the New York City Housing Authority have been performing lead paint inspections and cleanups without any professional training. The Daily News investigation found that these workers are not getting the training that is required by the federal government to ensure workers safety but also successful completion of the job.
As a result of this lack of training, there is good evidence that some tenants may have been exposed to significant amounts of lead in apartments that the NYCHA deemed “clean.” Some of these homes may have been made far worse by inexperienced workers who spread lead paint dust during attempts to remove it.
Sherron Paige is a tenant in Apartment 5A of 791 Hicks Street in the Red Hook Houses development in Brooklyn. Her apartment was designated as “clean” by the NYCHA about their inspection and cleaning efforts.
Her Young Son was Exposed to Large Amounts of Lead Poisoning
But her son, Kyan Dickerson who was born in July 2013, tested with a level of 12 micrograms per deciliter of lead in his blood. The acceptable level is only 5, suggesting that the lead-based paint in the apartment was causing the issue.
After the results of the test came back, city health inspectors did an X-ray scan that found lead paint in the apartment. The NYCHA followed up and did its test – and said there was no lead to be seen. The Department of Health tested dust in the apartment and once again found the lead.
This sequence of events is just one piece of compelling evidence that suggests the employees of the NYCHA are incapable of conducting this testing. Not only did two other agencies find dangerous levels of lead in the apartment, but the follow-up test by the NYCHA was still failing to see any signs of lead at all.
When left on the walls lead paint is harmless, but once it chips, flakes or turns into dust, it can be easily inhaled or ingested, causing serious problems. Children are more susceptible to harm than adults, causing them to experience delayed brain development and learning difficulties.
Kyan – who has lived his entire life in the apartment – was diagnosed with delays in speech and was designated as needing special education by the school.
To prevent children from living in these unsafe environments, the NYCHA is required by the federal government only to assign workers who have specific training and certifications. Despite this, Kyan’s experience is causing questions to be asked about the experience of the employees who inspected Apartment 5A.
In response to The News’ questions, the NYCHA admitted that they had been using untrained and uncertified workers for these inspections and cleanups. The statement went on to note that this had been happening for years, meaning that there are hundreds, if not thousands of other dangerous apartments in the city.
Thousands of Children are Endangered Each Year
The NYCHA estimated that 55,000 apartments each year are inspected because of fears of lead paint usage, of those 4,700 units house children under six years old.
Between the years 2010 and 2015, there have been 202 children who have registered elevated blood-lead levels. I nearly half of the apartments of these children the city health inspectors detected the presence of lead paint which could endanger the children.
To follow-up on this report, the NYCHA conducted their testing, claiming that only 17 of the apartments had a lead paint hazard. But as you might imagine, the lack of training and certification for the NYCHA staff conducting the inspections raises doubts about their claims regarding the scale of the issue.
Greg Floyd, president of Teamsters Local 237, an agency that represents 8,000 NYCHA workers said that he was unaware that workers in the tech services department had been inspecting and cleaning up lead paint in apartments without the required training.
“We’re surprised that this was allowed to happen. That’s something that Mayor de Blasio should have straightened out” he said. A spokeswoman for the Department of Investigation said that an investigation is ongoing, while the U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment on the allegations.