Lead Testing to be Required in All New Jersey Public Schools

POLITICO Pro reports New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently announced two new measures that will allow New Jersey to protect students from lead poisoning.

Christie will require that all public schools test for lead each year and report the findings publicly. He also will lower the level of lead in a child’s bloodstream that’s required to automatically trigger medical treatment. These measures will take effect in the 2016-2017 school year.

“It’s intended to ensure future generations are educated in safe, secure learning environments,” Christie said. “I think we’ve come to a smart, aggressive way of dealing with many concerns that parents might have.”

It has always been a requirement for to provide clean drinking water, but they have not been required to report on their own test results.

The finding of elevated lead levels in a number of Newark public schools sparked the lead scare in New Jersey. Although municipal water systems are mostly safe, water can become contaminated when it reaches aging pipes and faucets in city schools.

In order to fund the state mandate, Christie said his office went through the budget and found $10 million to reimburse school districts for the testing.

Christie also lowered the threshold for when medical treatment will be required for children with lead in their bloodstream.

Previously, if a child’s bloodstream showed 10 or more micrograms per deciliter of lead, treatment would be immediately required. Now that threshold will be between 5 micrograms and 9 micrograms, Christie said.

Democrats praised Christie for his announcement.

“This is a great victory for the children and families of New Jersey,” said state Sen. Joseph Vitale. “Making sure that kids exposed to lead hazards get health care interventions early so that we can prevent the severe damage that can be caused by exposure is critical, and now they will get it.”

U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, Jr., whose district includes Newark, also commended the governor.

“I welcome Governor Christie’s decision,” he said. “Since the lead crisis in Newark public schools broke, I have called for action to ensure transparent monitoring of drinking water and have introduced federal legislation to spur testing of drinking water for lead in our nation’s schools.”