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Below is a press release from the Department of the Public Advocate:
New Childhood Lead Poisoning Standard Protects Thousands of Additional Children
At Lead Poisoning Prevention Week kickoff: Public Advocate, State departments outline additional measures to tighten government response to public health issue
TRENTON – The childhood lead poisoning standard in New Jersey will be lowered and the state will make it easier to obtain funds to clean up homes and apartments, state officials announced today at a Lead Poisoning Prevention Week ceremony hosted by Public Advocate Ronald K. Chen.
At a ceremony marking Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, state Department of Health and Senior Services Commissioner Heather Howard announced that her Department is proposing new regulations that would reduce the blood lead “level of concern” in children from 20 micrograms of lead per deciliter of whole blood (µg/dL) to 15 µg/dL or as low as 10 when a child has two test results at that level.
This means more children will be identified as lead exposed at an earlier stage, allowing their parents to take action to prevent further exposure.
In addition, state Department of Community Affairs Acting Commissioner Charles Richman announced that his department will change the regulations governing Lead Hazard Control Assistance funds – which are used to clean up lead contaminated homes. This means that more families will be eligible for the clean-up funds and municipalities will have access to the funds to clean up rental properties, if landlords refuse to act.
"New Jersey is doing an increasingly better job preventing lead poisoning, treating children who are exposed to lead, helping families get their contaminated homes cleaned up, and reducing the amount of lead-burdened housing overall,” said Governor Jon S. Corzine. "I am pleased that we are now seeing real progress in the state and local response to this long-standing public health problem. Our children deserve nothing less than our continued, concerted attention to ensure that they experience the best quality of life."
“Because Commissioner Howard is lowering the blood lead level of concern and Commissioner Richman is easing access to clean-up funds, more children will be better protected than ever before,” said Public Advocate Ronald K. Chen. “Clearly, this is exactly what Governor Corzine envisioned when he signed an Executive Order last year to strengthen the state’s response to this vital public health issue.”
“Even lead levels once thought to be acceptable are now known to be dangerous," said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Heather Howard. “Lead poisoning can damage a child’s normal growth and development—especially in the early years. Very high lead levels can cause seizures, severe brain damage, coma and even death.’’
"The Department of Community Affairs recognizes that the primary cause of lead poisoning in children today is lead-based paint. For that reason, the Department provides clean-up funds, maintains a lead-safe housing registry and certifies lead abatement contractors," said Acting Commissioner Richman. "We are more than eager to join other state agencies in stepping up efforts to eliminate lead poisoning in New Jersey because no one should be at risk of serious medical problems that are completely preventable."
The actions by both departments are part of the state’s enhanced response to the lead poisoning problem called for by Governor Jon S. Corzine in Executive Order No. 100 signed last spring after the Public Advocate released a report that showed that the childhood lead poisoning
problem continues to be significant, especially in urban areas with the oldest housing.
The Governor also called on state government agencies to improve collaboration with municipalities on the issue of childhood lead poisoning. Consistent with that directive, the Public Advocate launched a Model Lead-Safe City project and model city agreements have been signed with 13 municipalities throughout the state, including several where the lead poisoning problem was the worst. The Model Cities are: Camden, Elizabeth, East Orange, Irvington, Hackensack, Newark, Paterson, Long Branch, Asbury Park, Vineland, Englewood, Morristown and Bloomfield. Officials from several of the model cities attended today’s ceremony, including Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage.
· Elizabeth focused on providing workshops to parents of day care aged children about the dangers of lead poisoning and conducting on-site screening. Since they have become a Model City, they have screened over 5400 kids. This represents a nearly 3% increase in their screening rate.
· Vineland, one of the most recent Model Cities, has already made great strides. On Wednesday they had a combined H1N1 vaccination clinic and lead awareness event. The event drew hundreds of families. Parents were given lead education material, informed of where lead hazards lurk, and given the opportunity to receive a Wipe Out Lead home dust kit. Vineland also has a vibrant community outreach program and goes door to door explaining the hazards of lead.
· Camden partnered with Cooper University Hospital for a pilot lead screening study and facilitated the screening of over 250 children.
· East Orange piloted the use of the LeadCare II screening device, which provides parents with blood lead results in 3 minutes.
As a result of the Governor’s order, additional actions have been taken by state agencies to improve the state’s role in lead poisoning treatment and prevention:
· DCA changed state regulations so that lead abatement companies can no longer also conduct the clearance inspections that certify their own work -- a clear conflict of interest that had endured for years.
· DCA is regularly updating its list of certified abatement companies so consumers have an up-to-date registry of contractors from which to choose.
· DCA has taken strong enforcement action against abatement contractors who do shoddy work and against landlords who re-let contaminated properties.
· DCA and DHSS have created Geographic Information System (GIS) maps that identify where children with elevated blood lead levels live, where there is older housing stock, and neighborhoods where children are not screened. This information allows cities and community-based organizations to target the most at-risk children with their education, outreach, and prevention efforts.
· DHSS conducted a full-day training of inspection staff from the Department of Children and Families. Approximately 110 staff members were trained on lead awareness and the medical aspects of lead poisoning.
· DHSS has developed a 2-page hand-out for local health departments to use that warns tenants in a multi-unit dwelling that a lead paint hazard has been identified in one unit and that other children in the building are therefore at risk of becoming poisoned.
· DHSS developed a two-page handout: “An Important Message About Lead Poisoning From Your Child’s School.” The hand-out focused on the effects of lead poisoning and recommends actions for schools and parents to better serve a lead poisoned child and his/her learning needs. The state Department of Education distributed it.
· DCF worked with Foster and Adoptive Family Services to update the lead home correspondence course for resource family parents and to develop an E-Learning course. DCF is looking into further opportunities to update its lead-awareness training for resource parents.
Additional Model City accomplishments:
· Paterson has focused its educational outreach efforts to its Arab-American community and has seen increased screening rates among this population.
· Long Branch has stepped up its enforcement efforts and is bringing to court dilatory landlords who refuse to clean-up their lead-contaminated property.
· Newark partnered with the Newark Bears baseball team to host a lead education and awareness day where dozens of children were screened and hundreds of families received lead education information.
· Hackensack has partnered with faith based organizations to help distribute lead education materials throughout the community.
· Through DCA’s LIFT grant program, Model Cities received over $400K for state-of-the-art XRF lead detection equipment and training.
· Nearly 20 employees from Model Cities received a grant from DHSS to be trained as lead inspectors / risk assessors.
· The Public Advocate is working to develop an ordinance for the Model Cities that would require a lead inspection before a certificate of occupancy could be issued.
· The Public Advocate has recorded a public service announcement on the dangers of lead poisoning that is available in English, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese. All of the Model Cities and partners are working to add these videos to their municipal or organization web site.
· The Public Advocate has created a flyer of common home remedies and cultural practices that contain lead and have poisoned children. Both the brochure and flyer will be available for state agencies and Model Cities to disseminate.
Department of Health
P. O. Box 360, Trenton, NJ 08625-0360