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Rice, Van Drew Legislation to Provide Funding to Address Lead Hazards in NJ Goes to Governor

Senator Ronald L. Rice, D-Essex, testifies during the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee hearing regarding the Opportunity Scholarship Act.

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 received final legislative approval today by the Senate. The bill now goes to the Governor’s desk.

“Lead poisoning can be extremely detrimental to the health of a child, leading to learning and behavioral problems and to others that are far more severe. Yet, there are thousands of children, many living in urban areas, who are being exposed to this harmful substance in their own homes,” said Senator Rice (D-Essex). “I have consistently advocated for increased funding to address this problem and I’m glad we finally were able to send this bill to the governor’s desk. We have to protect our residents against lead hazards through prevention measures, and this funding is a step forward in that effort.”

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 FY16 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.

“Since often times there are no obvious symptoms of illness, lead poisoning in children can go undetected. That is particularly concerning given the damage it can cause to a child’s brain and nervous system. We must act to protect against lead hazards, and that means providing adequate funding for programs that will decrease the risk of exposure to our residents,” said Senator Van Drew (D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic). “I am pleased the Legislature has advanced this bill, which 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 Assembly approved the bill by a vote of 48-20-1. The Senate approved it 29-6.