The health complications caused by exposure to lead-based paint are extensive and well documented. Beginning as early as 4th century BC, lead was added to paint to accelerate drying time, ensure durability and repel moisture.
It wasn’t until the 1900s that poor health was linked to the harmful properties of lead paint. Side effects of lead poisoning include learning and developmental disabilities, stunted growth, hyperactivity, impaired hearing, and brain damage— for these reasons the US government banned the use of lead-based paint in 1978.
Millions of homes, however, built before 1978 are still standing with their walls and ceilings coated in this toxic paint. To tackle the silent epidemic of lead poisoning New Jersey passed several pieces of legislation to increase testing and remediation.
Here’s what homeowners need to know:
According to the NJ Department of Community Affairs (DCA) if a home was built prior to 1978 it must be inspected for lead paint unless it’s already Lead-Safe Certified or has been registered with the department for over ten years with no outstanding lead violations.
Municipalities are obligated to create an inspection team or hire a certified lead evaluation contractor to perform inspections, however, homeowners do have the option to directly hire an NJ DCA Certified Lead Evaluation contractor. These inspections must take place within a two-year period, or when current occupants move out, whichever happens first. New NJ lead laws went into effect on July 22, 2022 therefore all inspections must occur no later than July 22, 2024.
If lead exposure is found in the home the owner must remediate through abatement of the paint or hazard control mechanisms, both of which will be handled by a department-certified firm. Municipalities can charge a fee for these procedures that matches the cost of hiring an evaluation contractor.
There are two types of tests conducted to determine exposure to lead-based paint. The first is just a visual inspection to identify any places where paint is obviously chipped or flaking. The second is dust wipe sampling, the wiping of a representative surface and testing in accordance with the Department of Housing and Urban Development criteria.
The Department of Community Affairs issued standards explaining which testing format is appropriate for individual municipalities depending on lead exposure in that area. In New Jersey lead poison tests should be conducted for children at least twice before the age of six.
Young children and pregnant women are the most susceptible to lead poisoning and are prioritized for that reason.
In municipalities where less than three percent of tested children exhibit elevated blood lead levels (EBLL), only visual inspections are required. In municipalities with three percent or more, a dust wipe sampling is required.
The NJ Department of Health 2019 Childhood Lead Exposure Report found that 3.7 percent of tested children under the age of six in Warren County had high EBLLs. Homeowners in Warren County will need dust wipe sampling for their lead paint inspections.
Last year, Governor Murphy passed two bills focusing on the replacement of lead service lines in community water systems. These service lines were banned in 1986, however, those already installed were left alone. These systems contaminate drinking water becoming a direct culprit of lead poisoning.
These bills signed into law require lead service lines to be replaced within ten years. By 2032 all water systems in NJ should be free of lead contamination.
Alex Tironi, Contributing Writer
A recent graduate of George Mason University in Virginia, Alex pursued a degree in journalism with a double minor in American Sign Language and nonprofit studies. She worked as assistant news editor to the Fourth Estate, the university newspaper where she reported on many things but mostly focused on campus crime and PD activity. While working for a nonprofit called the Borgen Project, she wrote about global health and poverty in third-world nations. Alex recently finished an internship writing and editing for a business consulting company in NY. Growing up in the area, she has always been active in her community and brings the same intention as a contributing writer for the Ridge View Echo.