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TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner and Senator Ronald Rice requiring municipalities to conduct lead paint hazard inspections in single and two family rental housing within the municipality cleared the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee today. This legislation is in response to the state’s failure to enforce a 2008 law intended to protect children from lead paint hazards.

This new bill, S-1937, 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.

“There is no excuse for ignoring this issue and 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). “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. 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.”

“Kids that are living in low-income, urban and rural areas are at the greatest risk of exposure to lead,” said Senator Rice (Essex). “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. We as lawmakers have to prioritize and make sure that we do not fail our youth. It is our responsibility to give them a healthy environment to grow up in.”

The bill would require a permanent local agency or lead evaluation contractor with the duty to inspect single-family and two-family rental dwellings to report annually the number of inspections conducted and identify areas that have a high risk of lead exposure to the Department of Community Affairs. The department would establish an electronic system for this purpose. Under the bill, the department would submit an annual report to the Governor, the Legislature and Department of Health detailing statewide lead inspection activity and including recommendations for more efficient lead hazard detection and abatement. The department would also make this report available to the public on the department’s Internet website in a searchable format.

Under the bill, municipalities would be responsible for conducting inspections of single-family and two-family rental dwellings for lead-based paint hazards, but the DCA would remain responsible for the promulgation of regulations concerning the presence of lead-based paint hazards in single-family and two-family rental dwellings pursuant to State law. A permanent local agency or lead evaluation contractor with the duty to inspect single-family and two-family rental dwellings could consult the local health board, the Department of Health, or the Department of Community Affairs concerning the criteria for the inspection and identification of areas and conditions involving a high risk of lead poisoning in dwellings, methods of detection of lead in dwellings, and standards for the repair of dwellings containing lead paint.

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.

S-1937 cleared the committee 4-1 and now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for further consideration.