Source NJ Spotlight
Childhood lead poisoning, a decades-old problem, suddenly reemerged as a national issue when Flint MI, water supplies were found to contain dangerous levels of the substance. New Jersey has its own lead problems, chiefly caused by exposure to now-banned lead paint peeling in older homes primarily located in urban areas.
In 2014, more than 3,000 children under age 6 were found to be suffering from lead poisoning, according to Department of Health data. Of 14,030 tested in Newark, 5.7 percent had elevated blood levels. In Camden, the local school district switched to bottled water after lead was found in its system. And now high levels of lead found in the water at 30 Newark public schools, which forced authorities to switch to bottled water for thousands of students. The high levels of lead probably were a result of old lead plumbing, service lines, and lead solder from the street to the buildings, according to officials.
The state legislature is concerned about the problem, recently introducing bills to allocate $10 million to a lead-hazard control fund, which has been line-item vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie. At a recent press conference, the governor said the issue has been “overdramatized” by lawmakers and others.
For Kim Gaddy, environmental organizer for Clean Water Action, one of the state’s largest environmental groups, the results are an “outrage.” When she first served on the school board in the early 1990s, the school system’s 80 buildings were found to have high levels of lead. Her own godson was diagnosed with lead poisoning. “I feel very disappointed they (school officials and the state) have allowed this to rise again.”
The schools will be retested again for lead in the upcoming days, officials said. In addition, the top 15 communities where high levels of lead have been found in children are having their school districts’ supplies tested, they noted.
Lead poisoning can cause lifelong learning and health problems, according to experts. For parents concerned about their children, they can have them tested for lead at the Newark Health Department. Newark Mayor Ras Baraka also appealed to residents to donate up to two cases of bottled water to the city to help out with providing alternative water supplies.