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Local Law 31 of 2020: Lead Paint Requirements For NYC Property Owners

New York City’s most persistent public health crisis is lead paint poisoning. Local laws have been passed since 1960 to stop exposure to lead. Particularly addressing lead poisoning among children was Local Law 1 of 2004.

In 2020, the NYC Council passed Local Law 31 to improve enforcement and inspection regulations in Local Law 1. Scroll down and learn more about Local Law 31 and its requirements.

Here’s the article’s overview:

  • What is lead paint poisoning?
  • Lead-based paint hazards you need to look out for
  • Local Law 31 of 2020 defined
  • The Local Law 31 requirements
  • What you need to know about X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) Analyzer Testing

What is lead paint poisoning?

Lead is a poisonous metal used as a paint ingredient worldwide. Before the 20th century, artists and builders preferred it because of its thickness and density. Plus, it dries quickly and creates a long-lasting finish.

The dangers of lead have been known and documented since the 4th century BC. Reported effects included loss of use of limbs, colic, and anemia, among others. But, many people overlooked the risks then because of the benefits.

Precautions and legal bans on lead-based paint

Precautions were always present in the use of lead. In 1971, the banning of lead became a law in the US. This law prohibited the use of lead paint in residential or commercial buildings. Yet, it was limited to buildings constructed using federal funding or assistance. The total ban on lead-based paint was enacted in 1977. It now included banning lead paint in residential and public properties and on toys and furniture.

Use of lead paint was an accepted family practice in New York City before 1960. Thereafter, selling paint with high lead levels for residential use was prohibited and the state-wide ban was imposed in 1970. Banning by the federal government was in 1978.

Health risks from lead exposure

Lead exposure happens when a part of your body touches a product, surface, or soil that has lead and then the lead gets into your mouth. It may also be in anything you inhale, eat, or swallow, and it contains lead, such as water and food, that catches lead dust from paint peelings. 

Children are at a high exposure risk. They tend to put things in their mouths and nibble on window sills and door frames where there may be old coatings of lead-based paint. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to lead among children results in:

  • Brain and nervous system damage
  • Learning and behavior issues
  • Speech and hearing problems
  • Slow growth and development

Adults are also at risk when:

  • Their homes have lead-based paints and are disturbed or damaged. Dust containing lead can be inhaled, ingested or swallowed.
  • Workers and hobbyists can breathe in, swallow, or ingest lead dust or fumes when working with metal, paint, pigments or glazes with lead. 
  • The water may be contaminated when drinking water passes through plumbing that contains lead.
  • Getting in contact with soil with lead may occur while gardening, playing, and doing other similar activities.
  • Using consumer products that contain lead.

An effective way to lower the chances of exposure to lead is to reduce lead-based paint hazards in the environment. Read on to learn about these hazards you need to watch out for.

Lead-based paint hazards you need to look out for

According to the New York City Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD), lead-based paint hazards include:

  • Dust and peelings from disturbed or damaged lead-based paint
  • Lead paint on:
  • Rotted wood
  • Crumbling plaster
  • Doors and windows, in particular, those that are in contact with one another and are sticking or rubbing together.
  • Surfaces such as window sills that have been chewed on or susceptible to chewing by children

New York City’s proactive efforts resulted in an improved reduction in childhood lead exposure. Children with elevated blood levels have progressively declined since the local laws’ implementation. The latest numbers recorded a 21% drop in 2019 compared to 2018 of children with blood lead levels of 5 mcg/dL.

Local Law 31 of 2020 defined

Local Law 31 of 2020 was passed by the New York City Council and took effect on August 9, 202. It is the updated version of the existing law preventing poisoning from lead in children. The law is known as Local Law 1 of 2004, entitled ‘NYC Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act’. This law is enforced by the NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD).

What is lead-based paint according to existing NYC local laws?

Lead-based paint is currently defined legally as:

  • Having lead content measured at 0.5 mg/cm2 or greater 
  • As determined by laboratory analysis or an XRF instrument with an approved performance characteristic sheet (PCS) and programmed at a testing action level of 0.5 mg/cm2.

This regulation complies with Local Law 66 of 2019 and the rules adopted by HPD. Previously, lead-based paint had a higher threshold of 1.0 mg/cm2 or greater, as determined by laboratory analysis or by XRF inspections performed with an approved PCS at a testing action level of 1.0 mg/cm2.

The Local Law 31 requirements

Local Law 31 was passed by the NYC Council in 2020 to improve enforcement and inspection regulations in Local Law 1 of 2004. Below are the significant updates in Local Law 31:

Properties required to be inspected for possible lead paint remediation

  • Property owners have to conduct certified lead-based paint inspection for all dwelling units built before January 1, 1960, now includes:
  • Tenant-occupied one- and two-unit buildings, excluding the owner’s family-occupied unit.

Previous laws only included properties with three or more units.

Requirements for children under the age of 6 years:

  • For dwelling units with children under the age of 6 years, property owners have to make sure that lead inspections are done by August 9, 2021.
  • If children under the age of 6 years have recently moved in, lead testing has to be complied with within one year of the move-in date.
  • For properties with no children under six years, lead paint inspections must be completed by August 9, 2025.

Requirements for inspectors and contractors

  • Lead inspections have to be:
  • Conducted by independent third-party inspectors or risk assessors certified by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Inspectors and risk assessors must comply with all NYC local requirements, pertinent local laws, and Health Code requirements. 
  • Only X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) inspections are accepted.
  • They are to be conducted on:
  • All surfaces of properties built before January 1, 1960.
  • All surfaces of properties with known lead-based paint between 1960 and 1978.
  • Building owners must hire home improvement contractors who are EPA-certified. They should follow all lead-based safety standards.

Requirements for Condo/Coop Buildings

  • Condo or co-op buildings that are rented out, and children under the age of 6 years reside in the property, 
  • An annual XRF inspection must be conducted in common areas and dwelling units.
  • Certified workers must also perform necessary repairs using safe work practices under Local Law 1 of 2004
  • Units occupied by condo or co-op owners and the owner’s family are exempt from this requirement, 

What you need to know about X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) Analyzer Testing for lead-based paint

XRF, or X-Ray Fluorescence, is the latest technology for detecting and measuring elements in surfaces. EPA-certified trained experts perform XRF inspections. They use handheld XRF analyzers resembling ray guns during lead inspections. 

Lead-based paint surface information from dwelling units is gathered by beaming the machine into the surface sample. This “excites” the electrons, and the device records the reaction. When lead is present, the element symbol “Pb” for lead registers in the machine.

Only EPA-certified lead professionals are qualified under Local Law 31 to conduct the XRF Testing. The cost will be calculated according to the size of the units being tested. 

Handheld XRF analyzers are the preferred instrument for testing because they are non-destructive, accurate, and can detect lead in seconds. 


The improved numbers in lead exposure prove how effective NYC Local Laws have been in protecting children in the city. Local Law 31 of 2020’s stricter regulations on enforcement and inspections provide a positive outlook for significantly lowering children’s exposure to lead. 

To sum up, the improved regulations include:

  • Building owners must have XRF lead inspections within five years from the law’s passing or till August 9, 2025.
  • Lead inspections must be conducted by independent third-party inspectors certified by the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA).
  • Building owners, property managers, or persons authorized by the property owner must have their apartments inspected within one year of the law or by August 9. 2021 if children under the age of 6 reside in the dwelling unit. 
  • After August 9, 2020, if a family with a child under six moves into a dwelling unit, lead testing must be completed within one year of the move-in date.

Click this link to find the lead paint inspection Brooklyn-based and EPA-certified near you: NY Certified Abatement Firms.To report lead-related problems and hazards, concerned citizens can call 311 or file a complaint online by clicking this link: NYC Lead Paint Page

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