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You are here: Home The Goods Local Expert Explains the Risks of Lead Dust for Young Children
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Local Expert Explains the Risks of Lead Dust for Young Children

leadRepresenting tenants of a Bronx apartment owned by the NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA), Greenacres resident and attorney Thomas Giuffra just won a $57 million lawsuit. The suit charged NYCHA with failing to test for the presence of lead paint and maintaining the apartment in a dangerous condition. NYCHA denied the presence of lead in the apartment despite violations being issued by the Department of Health and being ordered to abate the lead.

The child, who grew up in the apartment, had high levels of lead in her blood which her attorney argued caused permanent brain damage. The injured child was diagnosed with a lead level of 45 mcg/dl at a routine checkup. The CDC considers any lead level above 5 mcg/dl to be lead poisoning, but states no safe lead level in children has been identified.  Due to sustaining lead poisoning, the child developed significant permanent cognitive injuries which has impacted her ability to learn and required extensive special education and other services in City Public Schools.

Lead in young children is accepted by science to cause brain damage and being responsible for developmental and cognitive issues. In addition to harming the central nervous system, the long-term effects of lead poisoning include renal damage, cardiovascular disease and damage to the reproductive and immune systems. Lead has a long-term impact because the body recognizes lead as calcium and stores it in the bones. 

What are the implications of this verdict for the proposed renovation of Greenacres Elementary School?

We asked Giuffra and here are his thoughts on the matter:

He said, "The case against NYCHA was a classic example of what happens when authorities minimize or deny the presence of lead and perform inadequate inspections. In the case of Greenacres, the district performed 509 XRF lead tests, a completely insufficient number based on the size of the school. For example, in my case, the Department of Health tested over 150 XRF sites for two small NYCHA apartments. To truly understand the full scope of the lead issue, there should have been thousands of test sites done on a building the size of Greenacres, including all rooms in the school (particularly ceilings and windows). Also no paint chip sampling was done at the school which provides additional useful information."

Giuffra continued, "As somebody who has handled lead cases for over twenty years, I viewed the sparse testing as a transparent attempt to reassure parents and the community by using a completely inadequate sampling. The fact that they found lead by using such a limited survey is clear proof that there likely is lead paint throughout the school... and if known would require abatement under New York law. Assurances that the building can be fully abated over the summer are very misleading, because the full scope of the problem remains unknown. Rather than reassuring the community, the finding of lead should cause greater concerns."

He said, "My view is as it has always been .... if they renovate, the kids should not be in the school during construction. I personally believe that the district should have included trailers on the field to protect the children or made allowances to relocate. The current plan leaves kids in unsafe conditions, demonstrates a complete ignorance of the potential hazards of lead and the risk of permanent injury to the children of Greenacres. The primary pathway for lead intoxication is breathing dust contaminated with lead. To think that children will not be exposed to construction dust during a major renovation of this type, despite safeguards, shows a lack of familiarity with construction sites in the real world. Lead, like asbestos, becomes harmful when it is disturbed either through peeling or demolition. Unlike asbestos which harms older people, lead attacks the developing brains of young children and they never get the chance for a normal life."

Giuffra continued, "To those who argue that work was recently done at the high school with kids in the school, here is the difference; the students in grades K-4 are at an age when school age children are most vulnerable to harm from lead. High school aged children are at a much reduced risk of injury because they are at a far more advanced stage of brain development. To attempt to equate two wholly different situations demonstrates nothing more than a lack of knowledge about lead poisoning."

He concluded with a warning, "My opinion is that the current renovation plan is like driving while wearing a blindfold; you don't know what lies ahead and hope that it all works out. It is a fact that lead paint was used in the United States until 1978, particularly in schools and municipal buildings, as it was an excellent and durable paint. I would not be surprised that if the old pre-1978 bid documents were reviewed, the specifications called for lead paint to be used. The school board and community has no idea of the full scope of the problem and plunging forward in this manner without knowing what is on the walls, ceilings, windows and trim throughout the building is just reckless. My recent verdict should alert parents, teachers, administrators and residents to the very real danger that this project poses to children. Lead is the number one environmental hazard to children. Ultimately, it is the children who pay the price for lead poisoning, and that is a tragedy."

"Younger children get poisoning from eating paint chips primarily, they also get it from breathing it. This is because younger children have pica (a fancy name for putting things in their mouth and eating it). They eat lead paint chips because they taste sweet. In contrast, older children develop lead intoxication from breathing lead contaminated dust which goes into their lungs and their bloodstream."

About environmental laws he said, "As far as regulations being such a great protection, why is it that Scarsdale is home to so many lawyers who earn a very comfortable living because laws are broken every second of the day. If laws and regulations were not broken, I would not have won my case or the other verdicts I have had in lead cases. Though the district claims that all interior work can be done in the summer, they don't know the scope of the lead problem based on the small survey sample. Very likely the entire school would need some form of abatement."

Giuffra added, "I do not care if they renovate or replace. I only care if kids are in the school when they do the former. I can't understand why the people who support the renovation don't fight for trailers or relocation to guarantee the safety of the children with the same passion. If they had trailers they would be able to work 12 months of the year and not be governed by the school calendar. What is more cost effective long term?"

Comments   

#19 Not taking those chance 2018-02-02 14:06
Kathy might do whatever she want with her but I am NOT taking those chances with mine. Accidents happen!
For years the Administration said there was NO mold in the building and residents pushed for it... woops! There was... They told us everything will be remedied safely then woops! fire alarm goes off as they are working on basement mold. BOE president last night at the forum acknowledged those were issues and said 'should have been tested'.
An apology does not comfort me AT ALL!
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#18 Disagree 2018-02-02 12:03
They have absolutely promised that no major work will be done outside of the summer. Might they finish hanging a sign or installing a door handle yes, but they won't be knocking down walls or doing major work that could be a hazard.

Quoting Resident:
They have never promised to only do interior work in the summer. They could do nights and weekends and if they don’t clean properly lead dust could be a real danger to these kids.
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#17 Resident 2018-02-01 19:02
They have never promised to only do interior work in the summer. They could do nights and weekends and if they don’t clean properly lead dust could be a real danger to these kids.
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#16 Disagree 2018-02-01 18:04
I don't believe that Kathy is an outlier. I know lots of folks that will have a child in the school during this planned renovation. Is it ideal, no. But it is far from dangerous nor will it have any material impact on the education that is delivered during this time period.

I have yet to hear any reasonable scenario where a child is being put in danger with all of the safeguards that are being put in place.

Furthermore, there is no reason to offer the alternative you have suggested when the entire building will be open and operational during the school year and the only work going on will be outside where the new addition is going up. There will be no construction going on inside the building except during the summer.

Quoting Greenacres Parent:
Kathy is an outlier. Many Greenacres parents are very upset about the potential risks but do not feel comfortable speaking out publicly. Why doesn’t the district poll them privately to see who would be interested in moving their child to another school for a year or two while construction takes place? If the school district has adequately addressed the risks, there shouldn’t be many takers, right? After all, who would want to go through the hassle of having their child have to say goodbye to their friends and teachers, adapt to a new school, etc.? However, if a lot of parents want to move their kids, then the district will know that it has a real problem. As far as I know, they haven’t even asked the question. I wonder why? Don’t they want to know the answer?
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#15 Greenacres Parent 2018-02-01 14:37
Kathy is an outlier. Many Greenacres parents are very upset about the potential risks but do not feel comfortable speaking out publicly. Why doesn’t the district poll them privately to see who would be interested in moving their child to another school for a year or two while construction takes place? If the school district has adequately addressed the risks, there shouldn’t be many takers, right? After all, who would want to go through the hassle of having their child have to say goodbye to their friends and teachers, adapt to a new school, etc.? However, if a lot of parents want to move their kids, then the district will know that it has a real problem. As far as I know, they haven’t even asked the question. I wonder why? Don’t they want to know the answer?
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#14 Agreed 2018-01-31 18:04
Agree that lead dust is dangerous but someone please tell me how my child will be exposed to lead dust if there will be no interior work done during the school year. This article seems to be just another scare tactic.

Quoting Misleading:
If you have followed this discussion closely over the past year you should know that the Administration has committed that no interior renovation work will be done while kids are in the school. It will be done during the summer and the only on-going work will be on the new addition. Therefore, how exactly will the kids be exposed to excessive lead dust when no work is being done?

The anti-renovation group will claim that its just not possible to do the work during the summers only. Again, the Administration has committed that they won't start any projects in the summer that they can't finish and if needed things can be pushed off to another summer.

This article falls in the camp of continued scare tactics by people in the community that refuse to listen to the truth because they don't want to be inconvenienced by this renovation. It is in fact the most selfish position of all. If the bond gets voted down, the work will be delayed further and pushed off to inconvenience another set of kids.



Quoting Misleading:
If you have followed this discussion closely over the past year you should know that the Administration has committed that no interior renovation work will be done while kids are in the school. It will be done during the summer and the only on-going work will be on the new addition. Therefore, how exactly will the kids be exposed to excessive lead dust when no work is being done?

The anti-renovation group will claim that its just not possible to do the work during the summers only. Again, the Administration has committed that they won't start any projects in the summer that they can't finish and if needed things can be pushed off to another summer.

This article falls in the camp of continued scare tactics by people in the community that refuse to listen to the truth because they don't want to be inconvenienced by this renovation. It is in fact the most selfish position of all. If the bond gets voted down, the work will be delayed further and pushed off to inconvenience another set of kids.
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#13 Kathy 2018-01-31 10:44
I have a kindergartener and a 3rd grader at Greenacres. My kids will be there. At least my kindergartener will... Quoting NIMBY behavior:
It's funny how easy for Kathy to say that's it's just "an inconvenience" and "everything is fine" when it's not your kids who will be there... If you can't put yourself in our shoes then you stop wasting everyone's' time..
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#12 Clarification Needed 2018-01-30 15:33
I think there is some confusion about the PTA. The PTA has taken no position on the school bond. Only the PTA “Executive Committee” has, which is not the same thing. The PTA has hundreds of members. The PTA “Executive Committtee” consists of a few people.
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#11 Vote Yes! 2018-01-30 15:19
You will discredit anyone that is for this plan as being on the field when in fact there are Vote Yes signs all around Greenacres, the PTA supports this plan (many of whom have young children that will be in this school during renovation), the PT Council etc etc.

Quoting NIMBY behavior:
if you want to put your kids ahead of the view of your front or back yard it's your choice...
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#10 NIMBY behavior 2018-01-30 13:13
if you want to put your kids ahead of the view of your front or back yard it's your choice...
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