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Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
|Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. |
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Education and Testing Initiatives Announced
TRENTON, NJ – Human Services Commissioner James M. Davy and Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D., joined forces today at the Kids “R” First Day Care Center here to announce education and testing initiatives to prevent lead poisoning.
Gov. McGreevey proclaimed October 24 through October 30, 2004, as Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Week to increase New Jersey residents’ awareness of the dangers of lead poisoning and how it particularly affects children.
“Lead poisoning in children is silent,” said Commissioner Davy. “There are no clues at first. A child may look and feel fine. But soon that starts to change. Attention may be affected; heads can ache; and stomachs may become upset. Unlike chicken pox, there are no tell tale signs – no red spots – that mean a child is lead poisoned,” he said. “The only way to know for sure is a blood test.”
Commissioner Davy displayed an educational packet, coordinated by Scholastic, Inc., that is being sent to more than 3,400 childcare centers throughout the state. The full-color package has information for the centers to display and activities for use with the children as well as information for the centers to distribute to parents.
“The key here, is that lead poisoning is preventable and the testing is free,” Commissioner Davy said. “Private insurance, Medicaid and NJ FamilyCare all cover testing. Uninsured children can be tested for free at their local health departments. Peace of mind for a child’s health doesn’t have a better price,” he said.
Commissioner Lacy stressed the importance of early lead detection and treatment in protecting the health and well being of New Jersey’s children. Dr. Lacy announced that the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) is purchasing up to 100 LeadCare analyzers, which are on-site testing machines that provide rapid results of blood lead levels within three minutes.
“Detection is an important step in preventing the irreversible damage caused by lead poisoning. We’ve found that one of the major barriers to lead screening is the inability of parents to take their children to off-site laboratories to have blood drawn for testing,” said Dr. Lacy. “These new analyzers will increase the availability of testing sites in communities with high risk populations and enable children who have elevated results to receive immediate referrals for follow-up care.”
The machines will be distributed to Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC), local health departments, and other safety-net pediatric providers. Priority will be given to providers in 16 target communities and DHSS will attempt to have at least one LeadCare screening site in every county.
DHSS has identified these 16 communities based on their high rates of childhood lead poisoning, which are well above the statewide average of three percent. Maps have been developed to identify the neighborhoods in these cities with the highest rates, which DHSS will also use as a target for screening and public awareness activities.
Additionally, DHSS has worked in collaboration with DHS and other state agencies and community organizations, as part of the Interagency Task Force on Prevention of Lead Poisoning, to prepare a comprehensive New Jersey Childhood Lead Poisoning Elimination Plan. This plan sets forth a goal of eliminating the number of children with blood lead levels of 10 ug/dL (at least 10 micrograms per deciliter) or more by 2010. The plan also sets forth objectives and strategies in the areas of screening, education, surveillance, buildings, and other environmental sources.
Parents interested in having their child tested for lead should contact their primary care physician. Individuals without a regular source of medical care or health insurance should contact their local health department or nearest community health center. To find a nearby Federally Qualified Health Center, individuals can call 1-800-328-3838.
Department of Health
P. O. Box 360, Trenton, NJ 08625-0360