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NJ Health Department report shows continued increases in childhood lead exposure screenings

Health care providers reminded to screen all children at ages 12 months and 24 months

NEW JERSEY – State Fiscal Year 2022 continued year-over-year progress in increasing the number of New Jersey children who turned age 3 years who received at least one blood lead test, according to the New Jersey Department of Health’s (NJDOH) latest annual Childhood Lead Exposure in New Jersey report released Monday.

Seventy-eight percent of children born in New Jersey who turned age 3 years during SFY 2022 received at least one blood lead test – an increase compared to 72 percent of children of that age during SFY 2021 who received at least one blood lead test.

In New Jersey, N.J.A.C 8:51A requires health care providers to screen all children for lead twice, at ages 12 months and 24 months. Children ages 3 years and older must be tested at least once before turning 6 years if they have not already been screened at ages 1 and 2 years.

Lead affects the brain and nervous system, which in children can result in lowered intelligence, hyperactivity, attention deficits, developmental problems and decreased hearing. Children are exposed to lead contamination through lead-based paint in homes built before 1978, imported goods, old leaded pipes, ceramic pottery, herbal remedies, and other sources.  

“No level of lead is acceptable, so timely screening is essential to connecting children with care and families with abatement and remediation tools,” said Health Commissioner Kaitlan Baston, M.D. “By raising awareness and with more testing, we can intervene earlier and children can get help faster to avoid the long-lasting impacts of lead poisoning.”

This year, through the rulemaking process in New Jersey, the Department is updating N.J.A.C. 8:51 to lower the blood lead reference value (BLRV) from 5 to 3.5 ug/dL, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This change will strengthen the standard for intervening in cases of child lead exposure, enabling public health officials and medical providers to intervene earlier with education, case management, home visits, and other steps at the earliest possible time.

Using the current standard of 5 ug/dL, the percent of children under age 6 years with elevated blood lead levels (EBLLs) has continued to decrease in New Jersey. The percentage of children decreased between State Fiscal Years (SFY) 2018 and 2022 from 2.5 percent to 1.9 percent.  In SFY 2022, 2,848 children under 6 years of age had elevated EBLLs.

The five large New Jersey municipalities with the highest percentage of children younger than 6 years of age with an elevated blood lead level SFY 2022 include: Trenton (35 percent screened, 6.1 percent EBLL); Irvington (48.9 percent screened, 5.4 percent EBLL); East Orange (37 percent screened, 4.7 percent EBLL); Plainfield (54.7 percent screened, 3.7 percent EBLL); and Paterson (39.7 percent screened, 3.5 percent EBLL). While the percent of children with an elevated blood lead level is one metric that examines the burden of childhood lead in a geographic area, it does not account for factors that may vary from place-to-place such as population size, screening rates, and sources of exposure, including the age of housing.

NJDOH continues to strengthen blood lead screening and surveillance by raising awareness of New Jersey’s universal blood lead screening law. This year, NJDOH is also embarking on a new public awareness campaign on the dangers of lead: Stay Lead Free, Test Twice Before 3. The Department also continues to support public health partners by awarding $17 million under the current budget in grant funding to:

  • Local health departments to support screening, environmental investigation and nurse case management;
  • Childhood lead partners, including three regional coalitions, which focus on community based primary prevention education;
  • Isles, to support the New Jersey Health Homes Training Center, which provides training courses for health and social services home visitors, housing inspectors, and weatherization/home performance staff in lead safe work practices and lead exposure reduction;
  • Green and Healthy Homes Initiative to provide technical assistance to public health and community partners such as outreach and education, lead screening strategies, and funding opportunities.

In SFY 2022, local health departments ordered abatements 324 times as a result of environmental investigations prompted by blood lead screening results. The state Department of Community Affairs has a variety of lead-based paint hazard assistance programs for eligible occupants in remediating and/or abatement lead-based paint hazards in pre-1978 one-to-four-family residential units.

For more information on lead prevention and testing, visit: or

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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