What do the city’s new lead exposure laws mean for New Yorkers?

Austin Havens-Bowen
By Austin Havens-Bowen  |
February 20, 2020 - 1:00PM

The NYC Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act was passed in 2004, and this year’s new laws ramp up efforts to eliminate lead paint exposure in schools, parks, and apartments in residential buildings of all sizes.


Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed five bills into law to strengthen the city’s legislation on lead exposure, putting more responsibility onto city agencies, and on landlords to protect renters.

The Department of Education and Parks Department are required to conduct more frequent inspections for lead exposure, and lead exposure laws have been expanded to cover mom and pop landlords, in efforts to eliminate lead paint exposure for children and pregnant women. Landlords have a year to prepare before the new laws go into effect.

Read on to find out how the new laws will protect you and your family, and what are the stricter guidelines that your landlord will have to adhere to.

What do the new laws mean for renters? 

One law, Intro. 891-A expands the NYC Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act to cover smaller rental buildings. This 2004 law was enacted to prevent childhood lead poisoning in pre-1960 buildings. It now includes one- and two-family buildings where at least one unit is not owner-occupied. Before, landlords of these buildings were excluded by the definition of a multiple dwelling.

Now, the landlords of smaller buildings, even if it is a vacation rental property, will have to adhere to the same rules as larger buildings.

Landlords must follow up with annual inspections, or more frequently if there’s known lead hazards. For parents, it’s your responsibility to inform your landlord if you have a child under six and provide access to the apartment for the inspections.

Intro. 904-A requires the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to investigate reports of pregnant women with elevated blood lead levels to find the source of lead exposure. It also mandates that the apartment be inspected and that the agency provides information on lead exposure and testing to the parents.

How the laws will protect children at school and at home 

Another law, Intro. 919-A, requires landlords of pre-1960 era apartments where a child lives to be inspected for lead paint by an EPA-verified inspector within five years, or within one year if a child under six moves into the apartment.

The Department of Education will now be required to inspect school’s libraries, gyms, and other common spaces for lead paint three times a year and provide information to parents. The law, Intro. 873-A, also authorizes the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to issue violations to property owners who fail to address lead-based paint hazards, according to the mayor’s office.

"Knowing that the air you and your child breathe is safe to breathe, whether at home or at school, is a fundamental right," says Council Member Margaret S. Chin. "By requiring the city to conduct regular lead inspections at schools and by strengthening enforcement mechanisms against landlords who fail to remediate lead upon turnover takes our city one step closer to zero lead.”

Extra protection for park’s recreational areas 

The new laws also address lead exposure in the city’s parks. Intro. 420-B codifies the Parks Department’s procedure of testing soil for lead and remediating areas where lead levels exceed federal regulations for capital projects that have areas with exposed soil that’s designated for active play or passive recreation.


Austin Havens-Bowen

Austin Havens-Bowen


Austin Havens-Bowen is a writer and reporter. He previously covered local news for the Queens Ledger and The Hunts Point Express in the Bronx. He graduated from Hunter College with a BA in media studies. He rents a one-bedroom apartment in Astoria with his boyfriend and their two cats.

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