In recognition of National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week from Sunday, Oct. 24 through Saturday, Oct. 30, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and New Jersey Department of Health have released the first phase of a statewide online mapping tool that uses publicly available data to indicate potential sources of lead exposure.
State officials said the new tool will help local health officers, community groups and the public better identify older homes in New Jersey that may contain lead paint, which puts children at risk for elevated blood lead levels and possible health problems.
Lead, a naturally occurring element and heavy metal in the environment, was widely used in industrial processes and commercial products including paint, gasoline, cosmetics, pottery, children’s toys, spices and cultural remedies.
“Lead-based paint is by far the greatest risk of lead exposure to New Jersey children and families, and we can empower and equip our neighbors with the tools to identify and eliminate lead risk," Commissioner of Environmental Protection Shawn M. LaTourette said.
“First, we have to know where to look, and this new online tool will help our neighbors and our local environmental and public health officers identify lead risk and take the steps necessary to protect children and families from exposure.”
“Children living in homes with lead-based paint are at risk for possibly serious health consequences as the heavy metal accumulates in their bodies,” Commissioner of Health Judy Persichilli said.
“Lead exposure can damage the brain and nervous system, kidneys, and blood cells, and in pre-school children, can disrupt brain development, causing lowered intelligence, hyperactivity, attention deficits and developmental problems. And these risks are preventable.”
The tool, developed with funding through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Environmental Public Health Tracking Program, allows users to categorize individual residential buildings by construction year (pre-1950, 1951-1978 and post-1978), which align with the decreasing probability of lead paint exposure.
Prior to the 1950s, lead was commonly used in home interior and exterior paint to achieve certain pigments, as well as to improve drying times, durability and moisture resistance.
Houses built after 1978 are unlikely to contain lead-based paints, as that was the year Congress banned the use of lead-based paint in homes built or rehabilitated with federal funding through the Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention Act.
Homes built between 1950 and 1978 also have a risk of potential lead exposure.
Deterioration of lead-based paint results in lead-contaminated dust, which may be directly ingested or inhaled, and paint chips, which may be eaten.
Exposure through direct ingestion of contaminated dust, paint chips or even soil around a house is especially a concern for young children, who often put their hands and other objects in their mouths.
The tool will be a helpful resource to New Jersey municipal officials tasked with implementing a recently enacted New Jersey law requiring lead paint inspection on certain New Jersey residential rental property, including upon tenant turnover, and establishes a lead-based paint hazard education program.
Future additions to the tool hope to look at other common sources of lead exposure such as leaded gasoline or pesticide-contaminated soil.
Learn more about lead-based paint at www.nj.gov/dep/dsr/health/environ-health.htm and visit https://njdep.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=6472457d42ab474b87f735de8d8ee205 to use the new tool.