Ensuring All Children in Camden Get Screened for Lead

NJHI 2015: Building a Culture of Health in New Jersey – Communities Moving to Action Building a Culture of Health in Camden

Lead is a toxic metal used for many years in products found in and around our homes. Lead can be emitted into the air from industrial sources and enter drinking water from old plumbing materials. Lead-based paint is often present in homes built before 1978. Approximately seventy-five percent of the housing in Camden was built before 1970.

New Jersey Administrative Code (N.J.A.C.) §8:51A requires lead testing to ensure the protection of children younger than six years of age from the toxic effects of lead. In New Jersey, per N.J.A.C. §8:51A, all children are required to be tested at both 12 and 24-months-old, and at the latest, before age six. In 2016, the New Jersey Department of Health proposed these rules based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more.

High blood lead levels (BLLs) can cause serious health effects, including seizures, coma, and death, and are associated with adverse effects on cognitive development and growth. There is no safe blood lead level in children.

Children ages six and under face the greatest risk of lead exposure because they crawl on the floor and can put items into their mouths that may have lead dust on them. Because their bodies are still growing, children tend to absorb more lead than adults. A blood test is the only way to find out whether an individual has been exposed to lead.

Due to concerns of high BLLs and the particular risk of exposure within the older housing stock frequently found in urban settings, Get Healthy Camden has partnered with the Southern NJ Perinatal Cooperative to create a Childhood Lead Prevention Program focused on the City of Camden.

According to the 2016 Childhood Lead Exposure in NJ Annual Report, 214,741 children were tested for lead in State Fiscal Year 2016 (outlined as the period of July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016). That number represents a 4.1 percent increase over the number of children tested for lead in State Fiscal Year 2015. In Camden City, 42 percent of children between 6- and 26-months-old were tested for lead in 2016; 3.5 percent of those tested had elevated BLLs. Twenty-three percent of older children who had not yet turned six were also tested for lead in 2016; among this group, 4.4 percent had elevated BLLs. While there has been a slight increase in the number of children being tested for lead in Camden from prior years, a significant number of children in Camden (more than 50%) are still not being tested for lead.

The goal of our Childhood Lead Prevention program is to ensure that all Camden children ages one- to six-years-old are screened for lead. We have also engaged our cross-sector partners, including hospitals and federally qualified health centers, to provide direction and help in reaching this goal. Reach out to us to get details about arranging a lead screening for a Camden child, and to learn about our other initiatives to build a healthier community.

Graph Source: 2016 Childhood Lead Exposure in New Jersey Annual Report
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Valeria Galarza
Cooper's Ferry Partnership, Get Healthy Camden