Lead exposure remains a problem across the country and right here in New Hampshire. Every year, several hundred New Hampshire children are found to be poisoned by lead – a dangerous neurotoxin that, even at low levels of exposure, can result in permanent, irreversible harm, such as cognitive impairment, learning disabilities, hearing loss, and delayed language skills. And with so many New Hampshire homes and apartments built before the ban on lead-based paint in 1978, we continue to put our kids at risk. In 2015 alone, 660 children were found to have blood lead levels equal to or higher than the Center for Disease Controls’ recommended action level of 5 micrograms per deciliter.
To protect our kids from this silent threat to their health, it’s critical that we dramatically increase the number of children tested for lead. Unfortunately, not nearly enough New Hampshire children are being tested, meaning that kids are undoubtedly falling through the cracks – not being diagnosed for lead poisoning, and not being protected by needed measures to eliminate their exposures to lead. And of course, the number of kids actually poisoned is likely much higher than we currently know.
It’s also essential that we adopt measures to prevent kids from becoming poisoned in the first place. Unfortunately, New Hampshire’s current regulatory approach is far too reactive, requiring that kids become poisoned before addressing dangerous lead hazards.
Fortunately, in 2015, New Hampshire enacted legislation establishing the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention & Screening Commission. Over the past 18 months, the Commission has explored strategies to increase blood lead screening rates in our state, and to reduce risks to lead exposure. In December, the Commission issued its first annual report, with a number of key recommendations.
This session, legislation – SB 247 – was introduced to implement many of the Commission’s recommendations. The bill has been moving through the legislative process, resulting in a number of changes as a result of landlord concerns. In its current amended form, SB 247:
· Requires all 1 and 2 year old children to be tested for the presence of lead in their blood, with the costs covered by insurance;
· Establishes a fund of $3 million per year, over the next two years, to assist landlords in removing lead hazards; and
· Requires that certain measures be taken, including at schools and child care facilities, to identify and address any problems with lead in drinking water.
We’ve known for a long time that lead is dangerous to the health of our kids, and that to protect our children’s full potential, we must put an end to childhood lead poisoning. SB 247 takes important, much needed steps toward doing so. We can and must take these actions to protect our kids, and ensure passage of this important bill.
This week the NH Senate is going to vote and decide whether or not to move the postive, proactive bill forward. We are asking you to call you Senator to ask that they support moving SB247 to the House so that we can get one step closer to putting these important protections in place for NH children. Find your Senator and their contact information here http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/Senate/members/wml.aspx. Please call today as we anticipate the vote will occur this week. THANK YOU!