Health Department launches pilot program to test for lead poisoning quickly

TRENTON – The state Health Department on Friday said it will launch a pilot project where it will use portable screening devices to test for lead poisoning and get quick results.

Under the program, nine local and county health departments will use the LeadCare II Blood Lead Testing System to provide free tests to more than 2,000 children and identify those with lead poison and get them medical treatment.   

“Early diagnosis is critical—it allows children to get treated sooner and serious health and learning consequences can be avoided,’ state Health Department Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd said in a statement.  “Blood lead testing also guides lead remediation and enforcement actions to eliminate lead contamination in housing, consumer products, and the environment.”

Previously, parents would have to wait for as long as a week and public health offices had difficulty getting in touch with families to report the results and provide treatment.

“The benefit of the pilot program is that families are able to have their children’s blood lead level explained by a nurse or health educator on-site,”  Deputy Health Commissioner Dr. Arturo Brito said. “All of our pilot participants are equipped to provide education about the effects of lead, lead poisoning prevention, and can work with primary care providers to ensure treatment as necessary.”

The health departments that are participating throughout the state include:

1. Camden County Department of Health and Human Services

2. Hackensack Department of Health

3. Morristown Department of Health

4. Cumberland County Department of Health

5. Monmouth County Department of Health

6. Jersey City Department of Health and Human Services

7. Middlesex County Department of Health

8. Passaic City Department of Health

9. Salem County Dept. of Health and Human Services

Although New Jersey has a universal screening law, which requires all children to be tested for lead poisoning by age 1 and 2 or at least once by age 6, there are still some children who are not tested for lead poisoning.  In New Jersey, by age 3, 76 percent of children have been tested—this new pilot seeks to improve rates.

Lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust are the main sources of exposure for lead in children in this country, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Lead-based paints were banned for use in housing in 1978. All houses built before 1978 are likely to contain some lead-based paint.

Children under age 6 are at greatest risk because they are growing so rapidly and because they tend to put their hands or other objects, which may be contaminated with lead dust, into their mouths. Children are exposed to lead by swallowing leaded dust or soil that gets on their hands or other objects that they put into their mouths such as toys, swallowing leaded paint chips, breathing leaded dust or lead-contaminated air, and eating food or drinking water that is contaminated with lead.

Each year, the Health Department dedicates more than $2.2 million for lead screening, case management, abatement and investigation reflecting the state’s commitment to preventing childhood lead poisoning.

Health Department launches pilot program to test for lead poisoning quickly