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Rice & Vitale Introduce Legislation Requiring State to Adopt CDC Standards for Responsive Action to Lead Levels in Children

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

 TRENTON – Senator Ronald L. Rice and Senator Joseph F. Vitale yesterday introduced legislation to require the state to adopt the federal standards used as the benchmark for responsive action to lead levels in children’s blood. Adopting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards would mean strengthening the standards currently used by the state.

“Research has shown that there are no safe levels of lead exposure in children. Federal authorities took action several years ago to lower the standard that triggers a response by health care professionals to lead cases. Unfortunately, New Jersey did not follow suit,” said Senator Rice (D-Essex). “Given the significant health consequences that can result from lead poisoning, it is imperative that New Jersey update its rules to capture lead-affected children sooner and prevent the dire results that can occur.”

“Lead poisoning can lead to serious neurological damage that can affect children for the rest of their lives. We have to make sure that kids exposed to lead hazards are getting health care interventions early so that we can prevent the severe damage that can be caused by exposure,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex), chair of the Senate Health Committee. “This bill will require that the state update its standards, and ensure that they remain in line with federal guidelines if they are adjusted.”

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 bill would take effect immediately upon enactment.

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