DefinitionPercent of New Jersey children under 3 years of age with confirmed elevated blood lead levels
NumeratorNumber of children under 3 years of age with a confirmed elevated blood lead level in a geographic area
DenominatorNumber of children under 3 years of age tested for lead exposure in a geographic area
Why Is This Important?Lead is a heavy metal that has been widely used in industrial processes and consumer products. When absorbed into the human body, lead can have damaging effects on the brain and nervous system, kidneys, and blood cells. Lead exposure is particularly hazardous for pre-school children because their brains and nervous systems are still rapidly developing. Serious potential effects of lead exposure on the nervous system include: learning disabilities, hyperactivity, hearing loss, and mental retardation.
The primary method for lead to enter the body is through eating or breathing lead-containing substances. Major sources of lead exposure to children are: peeling or deteriorated leaded paint; lead-contaminated dust created by renovation or removal of lead-containing paint; and lead contamination brought home by adults who work in an occupation that involves lead, or who engage in a hobby where lead is used. Lead exposure can also occur through consuming drinking water or food which contains lead.
How Are We Doing?Exposure to lead is measured by a blood test. New Jersey regulations require health care providers to test for lead exposure among all one- and two-year old children. An elevated blood lead level in children is currently defined in New Jersey as greater than or equal to 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (ug/dL). The lowering of the public health intervention level to 5 ug/dL was statutorily required under P.L. 2017, c.7 in February 2017. The NJ DOH's proposed amendments, new rules, and repeals were adopted in August 2017 upon publication in the NJ Register.
When we look at children born in 2014 statewide (i.e., the 2014 birth cohort), the percent of tested children who had a confirmed blood lead level greater or equal to 5 ug/dL before 3 years of age was highest in Cumberland, Essex, Mercer, and Passaic Counties. When looking at that same birth cohort of children, the percent of tested children who had a confirmed blood lead level greater or equal to 10 ug/dL before 3 years of age was highest in Cumberland and Essex Counties. The percent of tested children with a confirmed elevated blood lead level greater or equal to 20 ug/dL before 3 years of age was highest in Cumberland, Essex, and Hudson Counties.
When we look at children by year of testing, annual statewide blood lead levels in children tested between the years 2000 and 2017 show a decrease in the percentage of children having an elevated blood lead level >=5 ug/dL from a peak of 12% in 2003 to 2.1% in 2017. A similar decreasing trend is seen for children with elevated blood lead levels >=10 ug/dL, from 3.6% in 2000 to 0.5% in 2017. The same decreasing trend can be seen for children with blood lead >=20 ug/dL, from 0.7% in 2000 to 0.1% in 2017.
What Is Being Done?The New Jersey Department of Health (NJ DOH) maintains a Child Health Program, [http://nj.gov/health/childhoodlead/]. This program coordinates a surveillance system that collects information from laboratories regarding the results of blood lead tests performed on children in New Jersey, identifies children with elevated test results, and notifies local health departments regarding children with elevated blood lead tests who reside in their jurisdiction.
Health Program InformationAdditional information on surveillance and services related to the prevention of childhood lead poisoning can be obtained from the New Jersey Department of Health. Resources include: videos, fact sheets, educational materials, and resources for screening and case management.
New Jersey Department of Health
Division of Family Health Services
Maternal, Child and Community Health
Child and Adolescent Health Program
P.O. Box 364
Trenton, NJ 08625-0364