Benson Bill to Enhance Awareness, Protect Children from Lead Poisoning Advanced by Assembly Panel

Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex) to help prevent lead poisoning in children was released Thursday by an Assembly committee.

“This bill helps educate parents so they are able to recognize the symptoms of lead poisoning in children, which can have harmful, lasting health effects,” said Benson. “Lead poisoning can severely affect a child’s mental and physical development, and at very high levels, it can be deadly. The good news is parents can help protect their families by taking simple preventive measures. The bill provides parents with this information so they can take the necessary precautions to keep their families safe.”

The bill (A-2398) requires the Department of Community Affairs (DCA), in consultation with the Department of Health, to prepare an informational booklet in English and Spanish that explains the causes and symptoms of lead poisoning in children and preventive measures to protect against lead poisoning in the home. The informational booklet shall contain information explaining the provisions of the “Lead Hazard Control Assistance Act,” and the availability of financial assistance from the “Lead Hazard Control Assistance Fund” for lead hazard control work. Under the act, the department provides financial assistance (in the form of grants or loans, or a combination thereof) to eligible owners of multi-family housing and to eligible owners of single-family and two-family homes, whether or not the home is utilized as rental housing, for the removal and mitigation of lead paint hazards.

Under the bill, DCA is required to make the booklet available to any owner of a residential dwelling unit that is the primary residence of a child age six or under and is approved by the department to participate in the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). While New Jersey requires the testing of children in this age range for lead poisoning, approximately 250,000 children in the United States, ages one to five years, have blood lead levels greater than 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, the level at which Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends public health actions be initiated. Funded by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Energy, WAP provides income-qualified residents with services that reduce household energy use and costs by improving the energy efficiency of their homes while also ensuring their health and safety.

The bill was released by the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee.