TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Ronald L. Rice and Joseph F. Vitale requiring the state to adopt the federal U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards used as the benchmark for responsive action to lead levels in children’s blood was approved today by a Senate committee. Adopting the CDC standards would mean strengthening the standards currently used by the state.
“The CDC took action several years ago to lower the blood lead level content that triggers a response by health care professionals to lead cases. New Jersey has not yet updated its lead levels for responsive action,” said Senator Rice (D-Essex). “Since we know the significant health consequences that can result from lead poisoning, it is imperative that New Jersey adopt the more aggressive standards to capture lead-affected children sooner and prevent the dire results that can occur.”
“Lead poisoning can lead to brain damage and other serious health problems that can affect children for the rest of their lives,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex), chair of the Senate Health Committee. “Implementing the CDC standards will help to prevent the severe problems that can result from exposure to lead hazards. In addition, making certain that our state standards remain in line with CDC guidelines will ensure that over time we are following the most up to date recommendations. This is critical to our effort to protect New Jersey children.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed the reference level for response to lead levels in children from 10 micrograms per deciliter to 5 micrograms per deciliter in January of 2012. The CDC advised states and health departments to adopt the new blood lead level, which was changed due to compelling evidence that low blood lead levels are associated with IQ deficits, attention-related behaviors, and poor academic achievement. In addition, evidence suggests that these effects appear to be irreversible. The state of New Jersey has not adopted regulations to update the blood lead levels to the new 5 mcg/dl reference value.
The bill (S1830) would clarify in law that state Department of Health regulations regarding elevated blood lead levels are to be consistent with the most recent recommendations of the CDC. It would further require that DOH, within 30 days after the bill’s enactment, and on at least a biennial basis thereafter, review and revise the rules and regulations in order to ensure that they comport with the latest CDC guidance on the issue. Finally, it would clarify that the department must continuously engage in a public information campaign for health professionals and the general public regarding lead screening and the dangers of lead poisoning.
The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee approved the bill by a vote of 8-0. The bill would take effect immediately upon enactment.