City Health Group Promotes "Lead Safe" Over "Lead Free"

New York, NY¬December 15, 1998. The New York City Advisory Council on Health Priorities (NYCACHP), an affiliate of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), expressed its concerns today that recently imposed lead-based paint requirements may place city children at greater risk for lead exposure. ACSH, a consumer health group with over 250 scientific advisors, recommends a "lead-safe," rather than "lead-free" approach to lead control.

ACSH will present this position before the City Council Housing and Building Committee on Wednesday, December 16th, at a hearing on the impact of the new lead regulations on the City. The recent Manhattan supreme court ruling (New York City Coalition to End Lead Poisoning vs. Giuliani et al., August 1, 1997) requires the abatement of all lead-based paint, even if it is intact, in a dwelling in which a child with a blood lead level at or above 20 micrograms per deciliter resides.

"As we have learned from past experience with environmental health concerns, such as asbestos, the knee-jerk impulse to abate all lead-based paint, even when its intact, is misguided," says Alicia Lukachko, ACSH's Assistant Director of Public Health. "Abatement activities may actually increase health risk by dispersing the substance and increasing the potential for human exposure. If lead-based paint is intact, costly and disruptive remediation activities are not advisable."

A recent ACSH peer reviewed report reviewing current literature on lead and human health concluded that in most cases, intact and well-maintained lead-based paint should not be removed. Lead-based-painted surfaces present a hazard only when they have been allowed to deteriorate.

A separate NYCACHP report found that contrary to recent pronouncements by New York City Public Advocate Mark Green, symptomatic childhood lead "poisoning," seen often until the 1970s, has ceased to exist as a widespread public health.

"While localized lead problems do exist in certain neighborhoods," explains Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, president of ACSH, "New York City does not face a widespread health emergency. Efforts to reduce lead exposure should target high risk areas, and limited public resources should focus on lead control efforts that are truly effective."

For a copy of ACSH's reports on lead,please visit