PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
Thursday, April 13, 2017

Cathleen D. Bennett

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

Op-ed: New Jersey Invests Additional $10 Million to Address Childhood Lead Exposure

By Cathleen D. Bennett
Commissioner, New Jersey Department of Health

There is no safe level of lead in children, and exposure can damage a child’s learning and development. But it can be prevented through education and early intervention.

Building on his commitment to ensuring the health and safety of New Jersey’s children, Governor Chris Christie has included $10 million in his proposed FY 2018 budget for local communities to identify those with elevated blood lead levels and reduce exposure.

The Department of Health is strengthening New Jersey's standard for intervening in cases of potential lead exposure. The Department’s regulations are being updated to require earlier intervention when lower levels of lead are detected in a child — from 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood to five micrograms per deciliter of blood. This change and the Governor’s $10 million investment will enable public health officials and medical providers to intervene with education, case management, home visits, and other initiatives at the earliest possible time.

“We will invest $20 million to fund lead remediation assistance for low- and moderate-income households in New Jersey, and to meet the funding needs required by new regulations to identify elevated blood-lead levels in children,” Governor Christie said during his budget address in February. “It was this Administration that reacted quickly and decisively to deal with this issue by adding immediate funding last year. We continue that commitment to our citizens’ health in this budget.”

Lead can disrupt the normal growth and development of a child’s brain and central nervous system. While lead paint in homes built before 1978 remains the largest contributor to elevated blood lead levels in children, there are many different lead exposure sources including water from leaded pipes and imported toys, candy, spices, jewelry, cosmetics, herbal remedies, and pottery. In October 2016, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs awarded $10 million to eight nonprofit organizations to provide lead-safe renovation activities in residential units built prior to 1978.

New Jersey is one of only 17 states that require universal lead screening of all children at ages 1 and 2. Parents should ensure their child is tested for lead exposure at a pediatrician’s office. For uninsured residents, local health departments and community health centers provide free or low cost testing. Parents can also speak to their local health department about testing paint and dust in homes, especially in houses built before 1978. The $10 million in the Governor’s budget will allow communities to assist families in reducing lead exposure for their children.

Parents must take precautions to keep their children safe and healthy. The Department of Health provides resources for parents to stay informed so lead exposure can be avoided. The Department’s ongoing #kNOwLEAD public education campaign aims to increase awareness of all lead hazards in homes, schools, and on the job, and educate residents about what they can do to prevent exposure and safeguard their child’s health. I encourage everyone to follow our #kNOwLEAD campaign on Facebook and Twitter. The Department kicked off the campaign in October 2016 with a series of events across the state.

To learn more, please visit the Department’s lead website at www.nj.gov/health/childhoodlead which includes videos in English and Spanish to educate residents about lead exposure. Follow the #kNOwLEAD campaign on Facebook and Twitter for the most current information.

What They’re Saying

  • Lisa Gulla, President of the New Jersey Association of County and City Health Officials (NJACCHO)
    “On behalf of NJACCHO and its members, we have always supported the lowering of the regulations as it is good public health and we all work hard to ensure the health of our youngest citizens. We are also very pleased with the $10 million added to the NJ DOH budget to assist us in addressing the additional cases that will undoubtedly be seen. These funds will directly go to improving the infrastructure of a local health department and therefore allow them to prevent, investigate and subsequently mitigate lead exposure of our children. We would like to thank the Governor, the Commissioner and Assemblyman O’Scanlon for recognizing this need and being champions of public health. We look forward to working with the Commissioner to develop policies for distributing the funds once they are finalized in the budget.”

  • Christopher Merkel, Monmouth County Health Officer
    “The $10 million the Governor has inserted into the proposed FY 2018 state budget will assist local health departments in carrying out mandated lead invention program activities, i.e. nursing case management and environmental assessments of homes where lead burdened children reside. Governor Christie and Commissioner Bennett along with Assemblyman O’Scanlon are to be commended for recognizing that lead poisoning can be addressed by allocating appropriate funding to local public health lead programs. Local public health officers across the state look forward to working with the state Department of Health once the budget is finalized to ensure our children get the appropriate lead intervention services they need as there is no safe level of lead.”

  • Judith Migliaccio, Health Officer/Director of Paramus Board of Health
    “It is the mission of the NJ Association of City and County Health Officials to ensure conditions that promote health, prevent disease and protect the health of the state’s population through leadership, advocacy and collaboration. We support lowering the blood lead level in preventing the devastating health effects of lead poisoning in NJ and the funds will allow us to adequately do our jobs as health officials. A big thank you to all the legislators that made the time to meet with our association and understand the importance of this funding to our Local and County Health Departments. We look forward to working with the Commissioner and the State Department of Health on administering these funds.”

  • David Henry, Health Officer of Monmouth County Regional Health Commission 
    “It is encouraging news to see funding in the State budget to help local health departments address the lower childhood blood lead levels.”
Last Reviewed: 4/13/2017