By Erin Delmore
Nearly 250,000 New Jersey kids have been poisoned by lead since the year 2000.
“Childhood lead poisoning is considered one of the most preventable childhood diseases among particularly young people, yet we have lead poisoning of our homes and with our young people that continues to be a major problem not only in our city but across our country,” said Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson.
Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman is launching new legislation that would require kids to be tested before they enter elementary school. A look at the 2012 to 2013 academic year by the nonprofit Isles showed 20 percent of kindergartners in Irvington Township showed blood lead levels above the national reference level, along with 15 percent of kindergartners in Trenton and 11 percent of kindergartners in New Brunswick.
“The earlier we have notification of lead content, a higher lead content in an individual, the sooner and the better we can remediate the issue and accommodate whatever cognitive issues that are encountered as the result of having been exposed to lead,” Coleman said.
The CDC says lead poisoning adversely affects the brain and central nervous system in young children. Kids with very high amounts of lead in their blood are more likely than their peers to fail reading and math tests, to drop out of school and to become involved in the juvenile justice system, according to Isles. Parents often don’t know their kids have been exposed.
“Lead poisoning can be remediated if you catch it early enough,” said Coleman.
Lead-laced water in Flint, MI focused the nation’s attention on this crisis. But in New Jersey the bigger problem is lead-based paint. The kind that older homes, like ones in Trenton, are full of.
“These homes have issues with pipes that are soldered with lead, walls covered with lead-based paint. Abating these hazards one home at a time is going to take significant resources and many years to complete but that will not hinder us,” Jackson said.
Jackson announced a three year, $2.1 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to address lead in 150 Trenton households, like the childhood home of Joy Ingram Robinson. She just moved back in with her two-year-old daughter Giselle.
“I just found out she had lead poisoning last week through the doctor and that’s what made me come home and tell my dad that she’s tested positive for lead. And my dad reached out to other people to see, you know, if the house has lead in it. And that’s where we’re at where we’re at now,” Robinson said.
Area officials are looking to bring awareness to the issue during National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week by talking about the hazards hiding in old houses and the importance of screening the youngest ones who call them home.