Requires Public Awareness Campaign
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 is now law.
“This law will ensure that New Jersey’s lead levels for responsive action are 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 use aggressive standards to capture lead-affected children sooner and prevent the dire results that can occur. This will 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 New Jersey 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 toxic exposure that causes neurological damage and leads to learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and lifelong difficulties. Bringing our standards for responsive action in line with the more aggressive federal benchmarks is an important step 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 law (S1830) requires that state Department of Health regulations regarding elevated blood lead levels are consistent with the most recent recommendations of the CDC. It further requires 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 clarifies 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 was scheduled to end Feb. 3. The bill signed Monday makes the change by law and ensures the standard is changed should it be strengthened by the CDC.
The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 37-2. The Assembly approved it 77-0. It takes effect immediately.