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Queens No. 2 in city for lead poisoning

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Although childhood lead poisoning cases declined by 15 percent in 2007 to the lowest rate ever recorded in the city, Queens still ranks second among the boroughs for the number of children affected, the city Department of Health said.

Health officials last year reported 1,970 cases of lead poisoning among children between the ages of six months and 6 years, a 90 percent decline since 1995, when the city recorded more than 19,000 cases, the DOH said.

But Queens ranks second behind Brooklyn for the number of lead poisoning cases in the city.

The borough is home to 22 percent of the lead poisoning cases confirmed in the city, mostly in the western and southwest Queens neighborhoods of Long Island City, Astoria, Ridgewood, Forest Hills and Jamaica, the DOH said.

Lead poisoning, which can cause learning and behavior problems even at low levels, is diagnosed by a blood sample containing 10 or more micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood.

"Lead paint is the primary cause of lead poisoning, and young children are most at risk," said Nancy Clark, the DOH assistant commissioner for environmental disease prevention. "To protect your children look out for peeling lead paint — particularly on doors and windows — and tell your landlord to safely repair any damaged paint. Make sure your child is tested for lead poisoning at ages 1 and 2."

Last year 621 children in the city under 18, including 538 younger than age 6, were identified with blood lead levels of 15 or more micrograms per deciliter — a level that triggers an environmental investigation in the home and case coordination services by the city.

For these children and their families, the DOH assesses lead paint hazards and other lead sources, orders landlords to repair hazards safely and works with caregivers and health care providers to educate them on ways to reduce lead exposure.

The 2007 cases represent a 22 percent decline in lead poisoning since 2006, when 800 children under 18 were diagnosed, the DOH said. Last year's findings also show that testing for lead poisoning among 1- and 2-year-olds increased 3 percent since 2006.

The DOH runs several programs to educate families and health care providers about lead poisoning, and to increase testing in high-risk neighborhoods.

The DOH said the neighborhoods with the greatest number of lead poisoning cases in Brooklyn include several which border Queens: Williamsburg, Bushwick, Greenpoint and East New York.

Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at achristodoulides@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

Posted 6:39 pm, October 10, 2011
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