Lead exposure over time can result in hearing loss, lower intelligence, attention deficit among other health issues.

The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services is looking to detect lead exposure earlier by increasing the number of children tested. The Department has launched a pilot program which uses portable screening devices to give families rapid results while helping to prevent lifelong health and learning problems.

Nine local and county health departments are expected to test more than 2,000 children with the LeadCare II Blood Testing System. "If not tested, lead exposure frequently goes unrecognized," said State Health and Senior Services Commissioner Mary O'Dowd. "Early diagnosis is critical and allows children to get treated sooner and serious health and learning consequences can be avoided. Blood lead testing also guides lead remediation and enforcement actions to eliminate lead contamination in housing, consumer products and the environment."

"New Jersey has an old housing stock, so we know that we have a significant number of our homes that were built when lead-based paint was used regularly," said O'Dowd. "We've identified participating health departments based on low levels of lead testing and high numbers of at-risk children. All the test requires is a finger prick of the child, a blood spot is collected and run through the rapid testing device and within minutes, we can have the results."

The rapid results will allow public health officials to educate parents about the results and begin intervention immediately. In the past, getting results would take up to a week and public health offices found it difficult to get back in touch with families to report the results and begin intervention if the numbers were elevated.

The nine participants include:

  • Camden County Department of Health and Human Services
  • City of Hackensack Department of Health
  • Morristown Department of Health
  • Cumberland County Department of Health
  • Monmouth County Department of Health
  • Jersey City Department of Health and Human Services
  • Middlesex County Department of Health
  • Passaic Department of Health
  • Salem County Department of Health and Human Services

The Department of Health is dedicating more than $2.2 million for lead screening, case management, abatement and investigation.