Paterson Comebats Alarming Child Lead Poisoning

17 12 2008
Lead Safety Poster

Lead Safety Poster

 

PATERSON N.J.— Most of the buildings in New Jersey’s cities were constructed — and painted — more than 30 years ago, which means they have serious problems with lead paint. Paterson’s housing stock is no different.

A study issued by the Department of the Public Advocate in April showed that 5 percent of the children tested in Paterson had lead poisoning, more than double the state average.

On Tuesday, Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres entered into an agreement with the New Jersey Public Advocate to become the state’s seventh “Model Lead-Safe City,” which calls for increased screening for lead poisoning among children and strengthening the city’s current laws on stripping lead paint from the city’s old housing stock.

But, the initiative comes with no new state funds to help the city add to its four lead paint inspectors in the Division of Health or to increase its budget for a public education campaign.

Torres hosted Public Advocate Ronald Chen to announce Paterson’s designation as a model city, an initiative that will train its housing inspectors to test for lead paint and appoint a lead paint coordinator.

“We are targeting our most vulnerable population, our children,” Torres said Tuesday, who added that he wants to work with the school district, churches and pre-kindergarten centers to test all children entering school.

Torres said the city can do this without increased funding levels, if it partners with the schools and non-profits and uses existing grant money.

High levels of lead in the blood can cause a lower IQ, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, behavioral problems, stunted growth, impaired hearing and kidney damage. Damage to the brain and nervous system from lead poisoning is irreversible.

Children under age 6 are the most vulnerable, because their brains and central nervous systems are developing.

Exposure to lead-laden paint, household dust, soil, air, drinking water, food, ceramics, home remedies or cosmetics can result in poisoning, according to city health officials.

In Paterson, the rate of lead paint poisoning in children is consistent with other older industrial cities like Newark and Trenton — mainly because the vast majority of its housing stock was built before the 1978 ban on the sale of lead paint.

In Paterson, 91 percent of the housing was built before 1978 and 60 percent before 1950, when lead paint levels were highest, according to the New Jersey Public Advocate.

The model city designation comes four months after the city notified 108 homeowners who took part in a home renovation program called Paterson Pride that city inspectors failed to conduct routine inspections in those houses.

As a result, the city re-sent its inspectors and found seven of those houses had problems with lead paint.

Torres on Tuesday said those inspections slipped through the cracks.

The city’s current ordinance fines a homeowner up to $1,000 for lead paint violations.

Torres said he would strengthen the ordinance by requiring inspections every time a landlord rents an apartment to a new tenant. Torres said that process only occurs now if those units are subsidized with Section 8 rental vouchers or if the owner sells the building to someone else.

“We found shoddy abatement and cleanup and in some cases even observed loose lead dust in homes that had previously been abated,” Chen said Tuesday.

(News source  The Record)

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