Press of Atlantic City

Trenton Rally Seeks Lead Poisoning Prevention Funds

Press of Atlantic City — February 1, 2016

By CINDY NEVITT, Staff Writer

About 4 percent of children tested in Atlantic City and Cumberland County have "highly dangerous" levels of lead in their systems, a health crisis that is "a completely preventable issue" community leaders said Monday during a news conference at the State House in Trenton.

Representatives from several organizations, including New Jersey Citizen Action, gathered to urge Gov. Chris Christie to support lead-poisoning prevention measures by dedicating $10 million in funding for the Lead Hazard Control Assistance Fund in the next state budget.

"Our children should not be lead detectors," said Staci Berger, president and chief executive officer of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey.

According to recently released data from Trenton-based Isles Inc., 11 communities in New Jersey have higher levels of children affected by lead than Flint, Michigan, a city currently enduring a water crisis caused by lead leaching from pipes. Cumberland County and Atlantic City are ranked ninth and 12th among select cities and counties in the state, with 129 and 79 children, respectively, testing at rates greater than 5 milligrams per deciliter.

"The problems caused by lead in homes is usually tracked to lead paint," said Noah Hetzell, the assistant health officer for the Cumberland County Department of Health, which monitors all municipalities in the county except Vineland. He said the department conducted 130 childhood lead inspections in 2015.

Hetzell said the number of houses in Bridgeton and Millville dating to the early 1900s, when lead paint was commonly in usage, are slowly being remediated, but remediation itself can cause lead exposure as paint that is sanded off becomes airborne dust that settles on floors or outside in soil. Repetitive cleaning of walls and floors and frequent changing of air filters is recommended in those circumstances, he said.

In 2015, more than 3,000 new cases of children younger than 6 years of age with elevated levels of toxic lead were reported. About 225,000 children in the state have been affected by lead — primarily from chipping and peeling paint — since 2000, Isles reported.

Lead poisoning can cause brain and nervous system damage and behavior and learning problems.

To view the chart of select counties and cities, which Salem County tops with 8.9 percent of those tested having elevated lead levels, visit www.hcdnnj.org/lead.

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