TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Ronald L. Rice, Joseph F. Vitale and Shirley K. Turner 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 received final approval today in the Assembly. It now goes to the governor’s desk. Adopting the CDC standards would mean that the state’s benchmarks are consistently at least as strong as those at the federal level.
“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. Earlier this year, the governor said he was directing state health officials to do the same. This would ensure that New Jersey’s lead levels for responsive action are always at least as strong as those used by the CDC,” 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 and use the more aggressive standards to capture lead-affected children sooner and prevent the dire results that can occur. Importantly, this bill would also require the state to conduct a public awareness campaign on the dangers of lead poisoning and the importance of screening children.”
“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. “Using standards at least as strict as the CDC’s 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.”
“Children across the state have been impacted by lead paint in housing, and lead has been detected in water in various parts of the state,” said Senator Turner (D-Mercer and Hunterdon). “Identifying elevated levels of lead is critical to protecting children from the severe affects that exposure can have on their brain and nervous system. Bringing our standards for responsive action in line with the more aggressive federal benchmarks, and making sure they remain that way, is critical to safeguarding children in our state.”
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 governor said in May he was directing the Department of Health to change the lead level for responsive action. The department proposed the regulations on Dec. 5; a public comment period ends Feb. 3, 2017. The bill would make the change by law and ensure the standard is changed should it be strengthened by the CDC.
The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 37-2 in March. The Assembly approved it 77-0. The bill would take effect immediately upon enactment.