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Childhood Lead Poisoning in County Over Three Times Higher Than State Average

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The Cortland County Health Department has announced the release of the 2023 Cortland County Childhood Lead Poisoning Needs Assessment. The assessment outlines local data on the outcomes and risk factors associated with lead poisoning. The report also included the results of the photovoice project, which involved community members who were personally impacted by lead poisoning by sharing their thoughts, photos, captions, and a focus group.


“Lead poisoning can damage a child’s brain and nervous system, resulting in lifelong health problems and economic impacts. The results of this assessment will educate leaders, municipalities, landlords, healthcare providers and other stakeholders on the burden of lead poisoning locally. Cortland County Health Department’s current lead poisoning prevention program is funded for education and to address lead poisoning after a child is already poisoned with lead. This assessment serves as a call to action to stakeholders to consider ways our community can work to address lead poisoning before it occurs.” The Health Department said in a release.

Data shows the county has a higher rate of childhood lead poisoning than the state. In Cortland County, 39 per 1,000 children tested ages 6 years or younger had a blood lead level. In New York State the average is 10.4 per 1,000 children tested.

The Health Department says exposure to lead paint in a home is the number one risk factor for lead poisoning in the county. Data showed 94% of children in the county who have an elevated blood lead level had spent a significant amount of time inside a home in which lead paint hazards were identified.

Furthermore, 91% of the homes in the county identified as having lead paint during the county environmental assessments were built before 1930. 59% of those properties were rental properties.

The Health Department says in their release that lead poisoning has both emotional and economic impacts on families within the county. In the Photovoice project that was part of the assessment photos were shared and captions which showed how lead poisoning affected county residents lives, and highlighted the burden of a preventable health condition.

“You went to the doctor and your kid had a high lead level […] then what happens after that? You need to repaint […] that’s a lot of money, and that wouldn’t be anywhere near the budget for my household.” one county resident said during the assessment.

The Cortland County Health Department will release further information regarding the assessment with community members on their Facebook Page. A summary of the entire report may also be found HERE.

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