New Jersey Kids Have Elevated Levels of Lead in their Blood

Published February 2, 2016
By Sarah Gonzalez

There is a higher percentage of children with elevated levels of lead in their blood in 11 New Jersey cities and two counties than in Flint, MI, according to advocacy groups.

More than 3,000 children under age 6 had newly-reported elevated levels of lead in 2015, according to data released by Isles, Inc.

The exposure isn't from the water, but from the lead-based paint in their homes.

“The paint chips and flakes, children put their hands in it and they put it in their mouth and they’re getting the lead into their own system that way,” said Staci Berger, President and CEP of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey.

“It’s totally a preventable disease here in New Jersey. We need the resources to do that,” she said.

Berger and other advocates say millions from the Lead Hazard Control Assistance Fund meant to pay for home inspections and to relocate affected families have been redirected to the general fund under Gov. Chris Christie.

Advocates are asking Christie for $10 million to fund testing, outreach and education and emergency relocation and to rehab homes with lead-based paint.   

However, the state said in an email that it is unclear to officials whether the data being cited by the activists is accurate or "is being fairly explained."

“The facts are that in NJ childhood lead poisoning is a public health success story,” Donna Leusner, the communication director for the state department of health, said in an email. “Over the past 20 years, the trend in the number of children with elevated lead levels has fallen significantly while the trend for the number of children tested for lead has increased significantly.”

She said the Department of Health has different measures for what is considered elevated levels of lead.

“Using current state regulations, in 2015 more than 579 children under age 6 in NJ had newly-reported elevated levels,” Leusner wrote. “Using current state regulations for children under age 17, there were 1,006 combined new and pre-existing reported cases.”