TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Ronald L. Rice and Senator Jeff Van Drew to provide $10 million in funding in the current year’s budget to address lead hazards in New Jersey was approved today by the Senate.
“Lead poisoning can have very serious health effects on children, yet too many continue to be exposed to this harmful substance, particularly those living in urban areas,” said Senator Rice (D-Essex). “It is critical that we provide funding to protect our residents against the extremely dire health conditions that lead can cause, from learning problems to impaired speech and development. This bill is a major step forward in our effort to fund prevention measures that will help our residents and our communities.”
No safe blood lead level in children has been identified, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and because lead exposure often occurs with no obvious symptoms, it frequently goes unrecognized. Lead poisoning can cause damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development, learning and behavior problems and hearing and speech problems, according to the CDC. It can cause a lower IQ, decreased ability to pay attention and underperformance at school. Recent published reports have stated that more than 5,000 children each year in New Jersey have elevated lead levels.
The bill (S-1279) would provide $10 million in funding in the current FY15 budget to the Lead Hazard Control Assistance Fund, which provides funding to address lead-based paint in New Jersey in a comprehensive and focused manner. Programs include lead-based paint hazard control through lead abatement or interim controls; emergency relocation of households which include a child with an elevated blood lead level; extensive statewide, regional and community based education and outreach; training courses in lead disciplines such as lead-safe building maintenance practices; identification of lead-safe housing via a web-based Lead Safe Housing Registry available to the public; increases in identification of lead-based paint hazards and lead dust hazards via the distribution of free dust-wipe kits and purchasing X-ray fluorescence analyzers for use by local health departments.
“There are no obvious symptoms of lead poisoning so it often goes undetected. This is one of the most concerning aspects given the real harm it can cause. It can affect the organs of young children, and cause permanent damage to the brain and nervous system,” said Senator Van Drew. “While many states face the challenge of lead exposure, since lead is prevalent in many older homes, the cases of children with elevated lead levels in New Jersey is concerning. This legislation will provide $10 million for the lead fund to help protect children in the state from the hazards associated with ingesting and inhaling this dangerous substance.”
The bill was approved by a vote of 28-9.