Wade Norwood, chief strategy officer for Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency and a former city council member who sponsored the city's lead paint ordinance, speaks at the 10th anniversary celebration of the ordinance. (Photo by City of Rochester Communications Bureau)

Representatives from the Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning, the City of Rochester, the Monroe County Department of Public Health, community groups, staff members of the Environmental Protection Agency, and elected officials gathered Sept. 19 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Rochester lead law. The historic Rochester City Hall Atrium was the setting for this public celebration that included speeches and the presentation of a joint proclamation by Mayor Lovely Warren and Commissioner of the Monroe County Department of Public Health Dr. Michael Mendoza.

Other speakers included Wade Norwood, chief strategy officer for Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency and a former City Councilman who voted on the law; Bryan Hetherington, chief counsel at Empire Justice and former coalition board member who helped draft the law; Gary Kirkmire, director of Inspection & Compliance Services for the City of Rochester; and Rebecca Morley, director of the Health Impact Project at the Pew Charitable Trusts and former director of the National Center for Healthy Housing. An award was given to Gary Kirkmire by the Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning in honor of his passion and tenacity in enforcing the Rochester lead law and his generosity and expert insights when sharing information and best practices with municipalities across the United States. Roberts Communications and Causewave Community Partners unveiled the new Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning website.

In December 2005, Rochester City Council passed a historic and precedent-setting lead-based paint poisoning-prevention ordinance. After an often contentious meeting, City Council voted 9-0 to enact legislation that targeted rental housing in high-risk neighborhoods where 90 percent of children reported lead poisoned resided. The law went into effect as of July 1, 2006.

In the decade since the law was passed, the City of Rochester Office of Inspection and Compliance Services has inspected over 141,000 units with an overall percent of units passing visual inspection for interior deteriorated paint remaining stable at 90 percent. More importantly, the Monroe County Department of Public Health has seen an more-than 80-percent reduction in the number of children reported poisoned by lead.

The Rochester lead law has resulted in making thousands of units with lead hazards safe for families and children. Recent research has shown that the rate of lead poisoning declined 2.4 times faster in Monroe County than any other county in New York State—and the Rochester lead ordinance is cited as an important driver of this decline (American Journal of Preventative Medicine). Based upon this success, communities across New York State and the country have been using the Rochester model as an example of how community groups, landlords, and local government can work collaboratively to solve an important community health issue.

“We are very grateful to the community champions who campaigned tirelessly to get this law implemented. We applaud and thank the Rochester City Council for listening to the community and doing the right thing,” said Mel Callan, a family nurse practitioner at Highland Family Medicine and founding member of the Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning. Callan continued, “The City’s Office of Inspection and Compliance staff are to be commended for seeing that this law is implemented and keeping children safe. Our successes over the past 10 years only serve to support how crucial this type of law is to keeping children safe here in Rochester and across the United States.”