PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
March 6, 2018

Shereef Elnahal
Acting Commissioner

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

Murphy Administration Committed to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposure

Reducing childhood lead exposure by increasing testing, intervening earlier, and enhancing abatement when lead is detected is a top priority of the Murphy Administration and its local health and community partners.

 

“When our children are exposed to lead, it can seriously harm their health and development, causing learning disorders and lower IQs, behavior issues, and hearing and speech problems,” said Acting Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal.

 

“For decades, residents of our urban populations have been disproportionately affected by lead because of lead-based paint found in older homes,” Elnahal said. “We also have one of the nation’s largest percentages of residents born outside of the United States, so lead exposure from some imported spices, cosmetics, jewelry and glazed ceramic pottery is also a concern.”

 

Lead has also been found in water in public schools across New Jersey, including Newark and Camden, where students have been drinking bottled water for more than a decade.

 

“The Murphy Administration is committed to intensifying our lead prevention efforts in collaboration with state and local health, regional coalitions, and our education, housing, and environmental partners,” Acting Commissioner Elnahal said.

 

Approximately 4,800 New Jersey children were identified with elevated blood lead levels (at or above 5 micrograms per deciliter) in 2016. About 13% of those children live in Newark, yet the city comprises only 3.8 percent of the state’s children in that age group. Jersey City, Irvington, Paterson, Passaic, Trenton and Plainfield are also among cities with the largest numbers of children with elevated blood lead levels.

 

The Department recently amended its rules to require local health agencies to intervene earlier when a child is identified with an elevated blood lead level of 5 or more micrograms per deciliter. To assist with those additional cases, the Department awarded 24 local health agencies a total of $8.2 million to do lead testing and environmental interventions, hire staff and provide case management services. Grantees are required to increase the number of children tested by 10 percent and to target outreach to health care providers in areas with high rates of children with elevated blood lead levels and low numbers of children tested.

 

The awards range from $54,853 for the Montclair Health Department to $1 million for the Newark Health Department. Other large grants include $704,583 to the Jersey City Health Department; $552,000 to the Middlesex County Health Department; $551,591 to the Irvington Health Department; $499,689 to the Plainfield Health Department; $497,00 to the Trenton Health Department; $495,441 to the Paterson Health Department; and $417,211 to the Passaic City Health Department.

 

Initiatives such as Lead-Safe Houses and the Newark Partnership for Lead-Safe Children are examples of best practices municipalities can implement to protect children and families. Lead-Safe Houses allow residents with a lead exposed child to relocate if the family has no other lead-safe alternatives.

Regional coalitions comprised of state officials, schools, local health, nonprofit groups and health care facilities also provide education and training to parents, property owners and renters, and health, social services, early childhood, and housing professionals about preventing lead exposure and the importance of testing children who live in at-risk areas.

 

In addition, the Department of Health continues to work to increase awareness of lead hazards through its #kNOwLEAD public education campaign, which includes a childhood lead webpage with resources for parents on lead and how to prevent exposures.

 

Parents should ensure that their children are tested for lead exposure at a pediatrician’s office at ages 1 and 2 years. For uninsured and underinsured children less than six years old, local health departments and community health centers provide free or low-cost testing.

 

The Department of Education (DOE) also plays a major role in protecting students in public schools. It implemented the lead testing program and passed regulations in 2016 that require districts to test for lead in drinking water in all public schools and to post results on their websites. If the results exceed certain levels, districts must notify parents directly and make alternate drinking water available to students and staff as they take steps to remediate the problem.  Throughout the process, DOE has provided schools with guidance and resources, conducted statewide training sessions, and offered follow-up support.

 

“The Department of Education has taken its role very seriously,” stated Acting Education Commissioner Dr. Lamont O. Repollet. “The detrimental effects of lead on children are well documented, and we cannot ignore the consequences for children’s health and well-being.”

 

The school lead-testing program involves approximately 2,700 schools in 675 school districts and charter schools, with retesting required every six years. DOE has reimbursed 548 school districts $3.2 million for testing costs. Districts must provide annual statements of testing assurance and are monitored by Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC).

 

Lead was frequently used as a component in home plumbing, fixtures, and onsite service lines in older homes and buildings. Lead can leach into water that stands in these pipes. Water utilities routinely sample water from customers’ taps to ensure that it meets federal standards. Utilities also take steps to minimize the potential for leaching of lead by adjusting water chemistry.

 

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recommends that people who own older homes or buildings get their water tested for lead by contacting their water provider or using a NJ-certified laboratory. For information, visit:  www.nj.gov/dep/watersupply/dwc-lead-consumer.html

 

Property owners should also be aware that they can greatly reduce lead risks simply by running any faucet that hasn’t been used for six or more hours to flush out any standing water. The DEP recommends running the faucet for 15 to 30 seconds, or until the water turns cold.

 

The Department of Community Affairs (DCA) also plays an important role in lead prevention. It regularly inspects multi-family housing for lead-based paint hazards through the Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Regulations, which emphasize lead-safe maintenance and work practices on housing built prior to 1978. When a lead hazard is found, the Bureau of Housing inspection orders repairs to be made within 10 days.  A dwelling is determined to be hazardous due to deteriorated lead-based paint when a child under six is present or when a pregnant woman is present.  

 

DCA awarded $10 million in 2016 to eight nonprofit agencies to identify and remediate lead-based paint hazards in 10 municipalities with the highest levels of need - Camden, East Orange, Elizabeth, Irvington, Jersey City, Newark, Passaic, Paterson, Plainfield and Trenton.

 

The number of children tested for lead exposure has increased dramatically over the past 20 years while the number of children with elevated lead levels has fallen significantly. Twenty years ago, 10,200 children were tested for lead, and last year, 214,741 children were tested, which represents an increase 4.1% over the 206,221 children tested during SFY 2015.

 

To learn more about childhood lead exposure prevention, please visit: https://nj.gov/health/childhoodlead, which includes Fliers, Fact Sheets and Brochures on sources of lead and how to prevent exposures. For a fact sheet on lead in drinking water, please visit:  https://nj.gov/health/ceohs/documents/dw_lead_factsheet.pdf

 

Follow the New Jersey Department of Health on Twitter @njdeptofhealth, Facebook /njdeptofhealth, Instagram @njdeptofhealth and Snapchat @njdoh.

In addition, NJDOH has partnered with the Monmouth County Health Department and Visiting Nurse Association, to initiate a pilot project in Monmouth County to identify pregnant women with elevated blood lead levels and interventions to improve pregnancy outcomes.  

Last Reviewed: 3/6/2018