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Older housing stock blamed for local lead problem

Mike Desmond/wbfo news

According to a local expert, Buffalo is one of the worst cities in the country for lead poisoning.

As a city with thousands of older homes, Buffalo has a serious lead problem.

Dr. Melinda Cameron, medical director of the local Lead Poisoning Prevention Resource Center at Women & Children's Hospital, is backing a proposal from Sen. Charles Schumer to provide a tax credit for cleaning up lead in homes.

"I have treated kids who have very, very high levels where it definitely can affect their development," Cameron said.

"Overall, it perhaps has made us three points dumber on the IQ score and we don't measure that, you medically don't look at that. So, there certainly are risks for kids that really have a lot of mouthing activity and get into it."

Dr. Cameron says the lead problem runs across the income spectrum and in city, suburban and rural homes. Since most don't believe there is a problem with lead, those fixing up older homes don't take precautions as old paint is sanded, leaving lead dust around for the long haul.

Cameron says if there is no political will to do something about lead now, there is a long-term cost in caring for those damaged by the heavy metal, which causes adverse health effects or brain damage.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.