HEALTH

New Legislation Would Make NJ’s Lead Reference Level the Same as CDC’s

By Michael Hill
Correspondent

Gov. Chris Christie pocket vetoed the bill the first time, “Yeah, because it was supplemental spending, and I don’t do supplemental spending, and I’ve never done supplemental spending in six years as governor. If they think it’s important, they should put it in the budget.”

Another bill in the Senate would have New Jersey’s lead reference level for action match the CDC’s.

In 2015, Senate Democrats say there were more than 3,000 new cases of children under six with elevated levels of toxic lead reported in New Jersey. Numbers advocates say it could be reduced if the state had been conducting lead paint inspections in single- and two-family dwellings as required by a 2008 state law.

“What we’re doing instead of these inspections of single- and two-family rental units for lead, we’re using our children as human lead detectors,” said New Jersey Citizen Action Program Director Ann Vardeman.

Today in a committee, Sen. Shirley Turner and three of her colleagues voted to release to the bill to shift the burden of the lead paint inspections to New Jersey’s cities that already do annual dwelling inspections but not for lead.

“And here we are eight years later and it has not been implemented,” Turner said. Why is that? “They claim they do not have the personnel, the resources  to do so,” she said.

“This bill takes that requirement and puts it on local governments. So, we want to have a better understanding as to why is the state not doing this and is there a way to do this more surgically to make the state do it and if it is going to be put on the municipalities to make sure its fully funded,” said New Jersey State League of Municipalities Assistant Executive Director Michael Cerra.

Sen. Turner says there’s a high cost to society and children who suffer permanent brain and neurological damage from lead poisoning.

“These young kinds are growing up with special needs. Their going to be mentally as well as emotionally damaged and many of them will wind up in our penal system and it’s going to cost society a lot more money than to abate the lead that exists in their homes,” she said.

“Lead paint is by far the most common source of exposure for kids in the U.S. and we could do much more to prevent lead poisoning. Prevention should be the beacon we follow in state policy,” said Isles Vice President of Environmental Health Elyse Pivnick.

It’s a message medical professionals echo as they treat lead-poisoned children and the Senate president says it’s a crisis that should made worse by neglect or inaction.

Elevated lead levels in Flint and Newark will test New Jersey’s resolve to prevent families’ exposure to the toxin outlawed in gasoline and paint more than a generation ago.