Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon announced Monday the return of a lead testing van. Advocates have pushed for its return for three years. Credit: Chris Libonati | libonati@centralcurrent.org

Where and when you can see the lead testing van

Where: Dunk & Bright parking lot, 2648 S. Salina St., Syracuse, NY 13205
When: Thursday, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m .

The recently reintroduced Onondaga County lead testing van will make one of its first public appearances Thursday in Syracuse.

Residents can see the van Thursday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Dunk & Bright Furniture parking lot. Dunk & Bright is located at 2648 S. Salina St. in Syracuse’s South Side. The meet and greet will allow attendees to register and be screened for lead testing while also receiving information about future appearances by the van.

The organizations holding the event include:

  • Village Birth International
  • Sankofa Healing Center
  • Families for Lead Freedom Now
  • The Syracuse Peacemaking Project
  • BABY B.A.C.K., Inc.
  • PEACE, Inc.
  • United Way
  • Central New York Community Foundation

County officials budgeted for the van’s return last year and announced its return in July. Advocates have pushed for the van’s return for at least three years. 

The van’s return is crucial because the testing of children for lead poisoning has decreased since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, advocates say. In the eight years before the pandemic, more than 5,300 kids were tested on average in Syracuse. Since 2020, the average has dropped to just under 4,000 kids. 

“For people who can remember and people who know the history of it, it can be a positive thing in the community because we need access to having our children tested,” Asteir Bey said, co-director of Village Birth International. “But I also think that it’s an important time to actually not only be aware of why maybe people in our community don’t access these kinds of testing sites. It’s a great time to try to reestablish trust and to make changes about how we get some of our medical care here in the community.”

The organizations involved in Thursday’s event participated in the Community Foundation’s nine-month participatory budgeting process. The foundation held six meetings to gather input on how to spend $150,000 to increase testing for lead poisoning. It then held several more to evaluate the proposals. 

The organizations suggested holding Thursday’s event to provide access to the van and build trust with community members, said Qiana Williams, who led the Community Foundation’s participatory budgeting initiative. 

The mobile testing van will help break some of the barriers to testing, like access to transportation, health care and knowledge about lead testing and resources. It will also primarily service zip codes 13203 (North Side), 13208 (North Side), 13205 (South Side) and 13204 (West Side). 

A higher percentage of kids have tested positive for lead poisoning than in those zip codes than other parts of the city, according to data published by Onondaga County. 

“A Lot of folks are just really happy to see that the lead van is returning and they’ll be able to resume testing that way, since testing has fell, especially during Covid,” Williams said.

Read more about Syracuse’s lead crisis

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