Taveras administration's policies promote healthy development in Providence children.
The number of Providence children tested with elevated blood lead levels declined by more than 24 percent last year - from 530 cases in 2012 to 402 in 2013. The year-over-year reduction is described by public health officials and community advocates as significant gain in lowering childhood lead exposure and protecting the wellbeing of Providence children.
The decline in the number of Providence children with harmful blood lead levels coincides with the implementation of the City's multi-pronged approach to reducing lead exposure. Citywide efforts include ensuring that contractors working on Providence homes have the appropriate lead license and the institution of a lead court docket in the Providence Housing Court.
"Children with lower levels of lead exposure are more likely to do well in school and reach important benchmarks like reading on grade level by the end of third grade," Mayor Taveras said. "My administration is committed to doing everything in our power to eliminate unsafe levels of lead exposure and ensure that all Providence children are healthy and safe in their homes."
"Lead exposure is an urgent and preventable health concern for families in the City of Providence," said Peter Asen, the City's Director of Healthy Communities. "The administration's efforts to reduce lead exposure have made significant gains and helped Providence become a safer place to live and raise a family."
In 2012 Providence's Department of Inspection and Standards began requiring all applicants seeking building permits for homes built before 1978 to provide proof that contractors have Lead Safe Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) licenses.
The City's Director of Inspections and Standards, Jeffrey Lykins, was recognized with a 'Beyond the Call of Duty' award from the Childhood Lead Action Project last fall for his department's successful efforts to combat lead poisoning.
"By making sure contractors working in Providence homes that may contain lead know how to safely manage it, we are working to reduce instances of unsafe lead exposure," said Lykins.
The Taveras administration also created a lead court docket in the Providence Housing Court to prosecute property owners who violate city housing codes in ways that put children at risk for lead poisoning. The Providence Housing Court requires homeowners to receive lead-safe certification to resolve such cases. As of January 2014, the City Solicitor's Office had prosecuted 180 cases.
Providence's lead court docket is the only program of its kind in Rhode Island.
"I am proud of the work we have accomplished to reduce lead levels in partnership with the City of Providence," said Roberta Hazen Aaronson, Executive Director of the Childhood Lead Action Project. "We still have more work to do, but the City has taken bold action to reduce childhood lead exposure and make sure all children grow up in a healthy environment."