By Danielle Furfaro
Originally published by the New York Post on April 23, 2017
Poisonous lead-paint chips are raining down on several Queens neighborhoods from elevated subway tracks, threatening the health of passersby, especially children, officials told The Post.
The decrepit No. 7 train trestle — which runs through Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Woodside — hasn’t been repainted in more than three decades, said City Councilman Daniel Dromm, leaving the flaking lead-based paint exposed.
“I’m surprised it’s still standing, that’s how rusted and bad the chipping of the paint is and the lead dust particles are flying through the air,” said Dromm, who grew up in the area.
The amount of lead in the paint is 224,000 parts per million — or 44 times more than what is considered safe, according to the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, which tested the falling paint chips at the behest of residents, Dromm and others.
Dr. Morri Markowitz, director of the Lead Poisoning Treatment and Prevention Program at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center, was aghast to learn about the “extremely toxic” levels falling from the elevated tracks.
“I think the Department of Health or the city environmental agencies should get involved,” the concerned doctor said. “The lead paint could potentially be falling off of every elevated track throughout the city, not just on the 7 [line].”
Davon Lomax, director of the union, noted how heavily populated the area is.
“There are food carts, restaurants and schools under there, and the dust is getting everywhere, and it’s all breathable,’’ he said.
“This poses a threat to people who work and are passing underneath there every day.”
The dilapidated sections of the overhead tracks run from the 52nd street station to Junction Boulevard.
“It’s a poison, and kids shouldn’t be exposed to it,” said resident Samuel Rivera, 62, who lives in Jackson Heights. “The MTA should have repainted this by now, but they take their sweet time doing everything.”
Father-of-two Md Lokman Hossain said he is particularly worried about his 17-month-old son, noting that the tot could mistake a paint chip for food if it fell into his lap as they walked along Roosevelt Avenue.
“He could think it’s candy or something and swallow it, and it could lead to a big problem,’’ Hossain said.
Dromm said he has repeatedly pressed the MTA to take better care of the trestles, especially the area around the 74th Street/Broadway station.
“It has not been painted for at least 35 years that I can remember,” he said.
MTA officials said it has painted the trestles more recently than that, but they couldn’t say exactly when.
“No station on the 7 line, or the connecting infrastructure, has gone 35 years without being painted,” said agency spokeswoman Beth DeFalco. “We do annual joint inspections with NYCDEP of NYC Parks that are adjacent to our subway structures and quarterly inspections of other locations”
Markowitz called lead-based paints “indestructible, and recommended that those who live close to the tracks are at highest risk, and should seek out testing — as should MTA workers and commuters who spend time in the station.
Lead poisoning can cause developmental delays, learning disabilities, hearing loss and seizures in children, according to the Mayo Clinic.
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