Getting the Lead out of Greenpoint

by Jessica Podkalicki

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Greenpoint and Williamsburg are both very old, amazing neighborhoods in Brooklyn. One of the caveats of older neighborhoods is the outdated infrastructure and landscape of the area. Older buildings, built before 1960, tend to contain lead-based paint. While this type of paint was not nationally banned until 1978, building owners still used this lead-based paint in some of their buildings during the 1960s and 1970s.

Greenpoint is notorious for its high blood levels of lead in children. According to the report Lead Poisoning in NYC, by NYC Department of Health (2010), Greenpoint showed the highest average of blood levels of lead in children citywide. Greenpoint tests showed an average of 12.7 children with lead poisoning per 1,000 children tested — the city average was 4.0 per 1,000 children.

According to another source, the United Hospital Fund meta-analysis of NYC, Greenpoint is also one of the only neighborhoods with almost double the amount of children with lead in their blood compared to the rest of the City.

Lead can be found in our soil, and is one likely reason that the children in our area experience such a high level of lead blood contamination. Soil in urban environments (like throughout New York City, including Greenpoint) is prone to contain more contaminants like lead as opposed to other areas. In North Brooklyn, many tests have shown that our soil does in fact tend to contain much higher levels of lead than other neighborhoods in NYC.  It is smart to get your soil tested in and around Greenpoint and Williamsburg if you have small children and/or a garden. For a small fee, the Environmental Sciences Analytical Lab at Brooklyn College will test your soil samplings for lead and other possible contaminants.

Over the years, there have been accounts of soil remediation and policies banning lead-based paints. The average amount of lead in soil is not dangerous or toxic, but it is still not a great measure. More can still be done to avoid lead poisoning in New York City, especially Greenpoint.
In terms of health risk demographics, the biggest dangers exist for pregnant women and children under six. According to the World Health Organization, lead exposures can cause nervous system disorders and brain development issues in children younger than six. Pregnant women exposed to lead can experience miscarriages, stillbirths, premature labor, and other birth defects. These problems are all extremely serious. Exposures to lead usually occur through ingestion, causing a blood lead level of 15 mcg/dL or greater (information taken from the New York City Department of Health’s presentation at the Neighbors Allied for Good Growth Lead Outreach and Education Community Event on April 16th 2015).


Check out NAG’s Twitter page to check out picture from our past lead event and other interesting tidbits about the North Brooklyn area:

Lead Poisoning in NYC,  NYC Department of Health (2010):

For more information on soil testing, check out the Brooklyn College Lab at:

For more information on lead poison, check the WHO’s site:

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