City Joins Lead Safe Program
By Laura D'Onofrio
ENGLEWOOD — Englewood officials have made a promise to the city's youngest residents to aggressively prevent and respond to the problem of childhood lead poisoning.
Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes signed an agreement with the state's public advocate July 10 designating the city as an official "Lead Safe City."
"Nothing is more important than protecting the youth and vulnerable in our community," said Wildes about this latest move to give greater protection to the city's 2,200 children under the age of 6. "This facility means we are going to save lives."
Joe Pargola, the attorney assistant with the Department of the Public Advocate, explained that children under the age of 6 are most at risk because their neurological systems are in a developmental state.
"The issue is how lead affects the brain. When you are young, the body and mind is developing," said Pargola. "At this point lead can decrease your I.Q., reduced growth, coma and, at an extreme, death."
New Jersey Public Advocate Ronald K. Chen unveiled a report in April 2008 that showed thousands of children in New Jersey are poisoned in their homes every year due to exposure to deteriorating lead-based paint.
According to Chen's report, the childhood lead poisoning problem was determined to be particularly acute in the state's cities.
In response to the report, Gov. Jon Corzine signed an executive order requiring state departments to tighten their lead poisoning prevention activities.
Under the Model Lead-Safe agreement, city officials have laid out their plan of action. They aim to improve educational outreach, expand the number of children screened for lead poisoning, improve inspections of properties that may be lead-burdened, tighten oversight of lead abatement contractors and provide improved relocation assistance to lead-safe housing.
The majority of the city's housing stock may already contain lead. According to statistics from the report, about 81 percent of the housing stock was built before 1978, when the national ban on the sale of lead paint went into effect. About 31 percent of the housing stock was built before 1950 when the level of lead in paint was at its highest.
"I am pleased that Englewood has determined to combat possible multiple poisonings by notifying all residents of an apartment building of the risk, and urging all children between 6 months and 6 years of age to be screened for lead," said Chen. "Another forward thinking component is the city's commitment to work with the local school districts to identify school room products that many contain lead."
City officials have inspected 104 addresses and found that at each of them one or more children had already been poisoned by lead within the last 10 years.
Approximately one-third of the homes have already undergone abatement. There were 12 samples taken from each of the home's floors, window sills and window wells.
"People think lead poisoning is an urban issue, but we are here in a suburban community talking about it. It is a statewide problem," said State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-37, who has been working with the Legislature to educate communities that the negative effects of lead poisoning are widespread. "Houses and schools with lead paint can lead to learning disabilities. They didn't come into school with learning disabilities.
They came into schools and got lead poisoning, which has become a terrible scourge in our area."
Lead is a metallic substance that remains in the environment years after its initial use.
It is toxic to the body's tissue and enzymes and can cause brain damage, learning delays and in extreme cases, coma and death.
Even though lead has been banned for decades, it still may be present in homes built prior to 1978 and is more commonly found in chipping or peeling paints, plumbing and surrounding soil. When the state's Department of the Public Advocate conducted a field investigation in late 2007 it found that five New Jersey cities with the highest concentration of lead-poisoned children were Trenton, Camden, Newark, East Orange and Irvington.
These five cities accounted for 31 percent of all reported lead poisonings in New Jersey in 2005.
Reproduced from The Suburbanite
Paid for by Friends of Michael J. Wildes For Mayor, Amy Wildes, Treasurer
250 Allison Court, Englewood, NJ 07631