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Prevention is key to combating lead poisoning, expert says

Thursday, March 31, 2016   (0 Comments)
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Nj.com 3/31/2016

The crisis in Flint, Michigan- and more recently, Newark- has cast new attention on lead in water supplies, but high lead levels in children is an old problem that continues to persist in cities across the state and nation. Elyse Pivnick, who has been working on lead-prevention efforts for the past 15 years, said Wednesday that children in inner cities are especially vulnerable because they often live in old, badly maintained housing where lead-based paint is a leading culprit. The focus, she said, needs to shift from treatment to prevention. "We use children as lead detectors," she said during a webinar hosted by Isles, a community development organization based in Trenton. "We wait for them to have levels of 5 or more micrograms per deciliter, 10 or 15 and at that point, we go into the house to see what sources of lead there are and remove the hazardous conditions. Lead residue in soil and dust, from old lead-based paint and other products, continue to be a major problem, said Pivnick, the director of environmental health at Isles. There is no safe level of lead in children’s blood, but she recommended that the state lower its threshold for lead exposure from 10 micrograms per deciliter to 5. Last year, more than 3,000 new cases of children under the age of 6 in New Jersey with elevated levels of lead in their blood were reported and since 2000, about 225,000 children have been afflicted by lead. Lead poisoning, she said, increases the risk of lowered IQs, learning disabilities and behavioral problems that can lead to crime later on. The cost to make a house lead-safe can range from $5,000 to $12,000, but the social and economic costs associated with children who are poisoned by lead can be as high as $32,000 per year.


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