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TRENTON – Responding to the state’s failure to enforce a 2008 law intended to protect children from lead paint hazards, Senator Shirley K. Turner yesterday introduced legislation requiring municipalities to conduct lead paint hazard inspections in single and two family rental housing within the municipality.

The bill is an effort to implement a program required by the law sponsored by Senator Turner and signed by Governor Jon Corzine requiring inspections at many one- and two-family rentals to make sure they are lead-safe. According to a recent report in NJ Spotlight, the Department of Community Affairs did not enforce the law requiring inspections for lead-paint hazards every five years, claiming they did not have the staffing for it. DCA also has said that it did not have the resources to implement the law.

“The fact that this law was never enforced in eight years is wrong and undoubtedly has proven detrimental to children in New Jersey,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). “We had 3,100 new cases of lead poisoning in 2015 and the state’s failure to broaden its inspection program to include single and two-family rentals may be the culprit.  This is a health issue that should not be taken lightly. Homes that were built before 1978 and contain lead paint may be a health hazard.  There is no excuse for ignoring this issue.”

The new bill was first announced at a press conference on Monday when advocates released data showing that children in 11 municipalities and two counties have higher levels of lead in their blood than children in Flint, Michigan.  Salem County, Irvington, East Orange, Trenton, and Newark were among the highest.  According to the data, since 2000, approximately 225,000 children have been reported with elevated lead levels.

“Lead toxicity is caused by many factors, not just water,” said Senator Turner.  “Children living in low-income, urban neighborhoods are at the greatest risk of exposure to lead.  We have a moral obligation to ensure that our children are living in lead-safe and lead-free homes.  If we allow this dangerous hazard to continue, we are limiting the potential of thousands of children.  Our failure to stamp out lead poisoning is preventing our children from having a healthy chance in life.”

This new legislation requires a local agency within the municipality to conduct inspections once every five years and allows the agency to charge a fee sufficient to cover the cost of the inspections: providing that the fee does not exceed one-third of the inspection fee for a three-unit multiple dwelling established by the “Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Law.”  In addition, municipalities would be required to impose an additional fee of $20 per unit inspected to go into the Lead Hazard Control Assistance Fund. OLS has estimated an additional 225,000 to 550,000 units would need to be inspected, but because of the state’s lack of compliance with the 2008 law, hundreds of thousands of rental units remain vulnerable to lead hazards.  Further research shows after program costs, the inspection fee would bring in an annual $614,000 to $5.8 million.

“Lead is highly toxic and can cause neurological damage that leads to learning disabilities and behavioral problems.  Children with lead poisoning are more likely to drop out of school and end up in the penal system.  Remediating lead hazards in single and two-family rentals is a fraction of the cost of paying for special education and incarceration of lead victims,” said Turner.

Senator Turner noted that she expects that municipalities will be better equipped to handle the inspection effort since they are already conducting inspections of local homes.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, lead paint can create major health issues for a child. Both inside and outside the home, deteriorated lead-paint mixes with household dust and soil and becomes tracked in. Children may become lead poisoned by:

•           Putting their hands or other lead-contaminated objects into their mouths,

•           Inhaling lead-contaminated dust particles,

•           Eating paint chips found in homes with peeling or flaking lead-based paint, or

•           Playing in lead-contaminated soil

Before 1978 lead based paint was used quite often because it was durable. During this time the health effects were not as well known. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as a result, lead was banned from being used in paint in 1978.