Englewood Signs "Lead-Safe" Pact

Saturday, July 11, 2009
BY GIOVANNA FABIANO

STAFF WRITER

ENGLEWOOD City officials vowed to join the fight against childhood lead poisoning Friday with an agreement to become a "model lead - safe city."

New Jersey Public Advocate Ronald K. Chen joined Mayor Michael Wildes and other officials in the municipal courtroom to sign an agreement that calls for a comprehensive lead screening effort in schools and a crackdown on landlords who fail to abate lead-contaminated properties.

Englewood is the second Bergen County city, following Hackensack in October, to sign the agreement.

Chen, who unveiled a report last year showing thousands of children in New Jersey are poisoned in their homes every year from exposure to lead-based paint, commended city officials for "taking such an aggressive stance against childhood lead poisoning."

Approximately 81 percent of Englewood’s housing was built before 1978, when the national ban on the sale of lead paint went into effect, Wildes said. About 31 percent of homes were built before 1950, when the level of lead in paint was at its highest.

Englewood is home to 2,201 children under the age of 6, according to census figures.

"I can’t think of anything more important than protecting the youth of our city," Wildes said. "With the stroke of a pen, we can save lives and make sure our children have a fantastic quality of life."

Lead poisoning, particularly in young children, can cause irreversible harm, including neurological and behavioral problems, developmental disabilities, decreased IQ and growth problems.

Governor Corzine signed an executive order requiring state departments to do a better job of screening children and cleaning up contaminated housing after an April 2008 report from the Public Advocate’s Office found that more than 80 percent of homes tested in five major cities came back with elevated lead levels.

"Thousands of New Jersey’s children are being poisoned every year in the one place they should be safe from harm – their homes," Chen said.

Englewood has already taken measures to deal with lead poisoning, said Nelson Xavier Cruz, the city’s health officer.

In May, the Health Department received a $23,395 grant from the state Department of Community Affairs to purchase a special gun that will identify the presence of lead paint during inspections, he said.

The city will partner with schools and its health care department to identify children who may be at risk, officials said.

Also on hand was state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck, who stressed that lead poisoning is not strictly an urban problem.

"This is very much a statewide problem that affects communities with a housing stock built prior to the mid-’70s," Weinberg said.

The public advocate has signed similar agreements with Camden, East Orange, Elizabeth and Irvington.

Reproduced from The Record
Saturday, July 11, 2009
by Michael J. Wildes, Mayor, City of Englewood
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