Study Finds Elevated Soil Lead Levels in Formerly-industrial Residential NYC Neighborhoods


Over the past twenty years, many areas within New York City have transitioned from industrial and manufacturing zones to residential neighborhoods.

This brings families with young children to areas with a legacy of historic lead contamination in the soil. Soil is an important exposure pathway for lead and a predictor of blood lead levels among children.

To compare soil lead concentrations in community parks and greenspaces between areas undergoing rapid redevelopment and land use changes and stable areas without redevelopment, CUNY SPH Assistant Professor Brian Pavilonis and Associate Professor Andrew Maroko conducted a study with Brooklyn College Professor Zhongqi Cheng published recently in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health.

The researchers identified three high- and three low-risk areas for lead contamination based on an additive index that included population growth, industrial land use, and new construction. They analyzed soil samples across 34 New York City parks and found that areas with a high-risk index had significantly larger mean concentrations of lead in soil and double the rate of children under the age of six years with blood lead levels greater than 5ug/dL (37.94 vs. 18.72 per 1000, respectively) compared to low-risk areas. There was a statistically significant positive correlation between street density, manufacturing/industrial land density and population density change within 0.40 kilometers of a park and soil lead concentrations.

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