TRENTON – Senate Health Committee Chairman Joseph F. Vitale issued the following statement in response to the Governor’s announcement this afternoon addressing the rising lead crisis in New Jersey. In his announcement, the Governor directed the NJ Department of Education to mandate all of New Jersey’s schools to test for lead in drinking water and has asked the legislature to include an additional $10 million in funding to support the plan in the FY 2017 budget. He also announced regulations for the NJ Department of Health to raise the responsive action level of lead in children’s blood to 5 micrograms per deciliter, bringing New Jersey in line with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards adopted in January 2012.
Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-Essex) and Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex) sponsored a bill (S-1830) that would have required the state to adopt the CDC standards and strengthen those currently used in the state in March. The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 37-2 on March 14, 2016. Senator Vitale also held a hearing to examine how the lead crisis is affecting thousands of children across New Jersey
“This is a great victory for the children and families of New Jersey.
“Lead poisoning can lead to serious neurological damage that can affect children for the rest of their lives. Time and again, research has proven that there are no safe levels of lead for children, and the damage is irreversible.
“Making sure that kids exposed to lead hazards get health care interventions early so that we can prevent the severe damage that can be caused by exposure is critical, and now they will get it.
“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 due to compelling evidence that low blood lead levels are associated with IQ deficits, attention-related behaviors, and poor academic achievement.
“I am pleased that the Governor has recognized the importance of adopting these standards for children’s health and for addressing the issue of unsafe drinking water in our schools.”