The Burlington County Health Department recently announced that it will be partnering with Virtua Community Nursing Services to conduct lead screenings for children ages 13 months to under 72 months each week during the month of March.
County officials said there is a scheduled community screening at the Carslake Community Center on March 27 from 5-7 p.m. Appointments are available upon request by calling 609-914-8550.
The county’s health department officials said it will offer walk-in screenings each month through June to address the low rates of childhood lead screenings in Burlington County.
In the wake of recent reports, the Bordentown City Water Department, which also serves the township and sells water to Fieldsboro, has exceeded federal lead drinking water standards over the past year after more than 10 percent of homes tested came back above a 15 parts per billion (ppb) action level.
In order to combat the issue, city officials have held multiple public forums in previous months to provide updates on their most recent efforts and progress in addressing numerous reports of high lead levels in some homeowners’ drinking water.
Although city officials have yet to determine the foremost cause of these lead exceedances, Bordentown City Commissioner Joe Myers expressed to the public in a meeting on Jan. 29 that the municipality is closely monitoring the situation.
“There is nothing more important to the mayor, the deputy mayor and myself than the health and safety of the citizens in the city and the township – the citizens we are serving,” Myers said at the meeting. “Over the past 18 months, our job is to be transparent and communicative as possible and make sure that as we get information, we share it with everyone. At the same time, [we want to] make sure that we are collecting and looking at the data that will inform us of what we think we’ve been doing and the progress we’ve made to date.”
At the public forum, city officials said they were committed to continuous testing and gathering data as well as conducting recent digs in the area, and the installment of new equipment at the city’s water treatment facility.
“Nothing is more important to the township and the city than the health and safety of our residents,” Myers said. “We take this municipal service extremely seriously. We’re committed to it, and we’re looking at a comprehensive data-driven approach to studying and examining this issue.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that there are approximately 500,000 children with high levels of lead in their bodies. The primary exposure to lead in children in the United States is through lead-based paint, but officials said that lead is also in multiple products such as makeup, toys, jewelry, zippers and imported ceramics (plates, bowls, mugs etc.).
Health officials said that lead in a child’s body can cause learning and behavior problems. It can slow down growth and development; damage hearing and speech and make it hard to pay attention and learn.
“Our Virtua partners have scheduled additional dates and times in an effort to screen more children for blood lead levels,” said Freeholder Daniel O’Connell, liaison to the county health department. “Through these lead screenings we can help raise awareness of the potential health risks and prevent associated problems in the future.”
The child lead screenings will take place at the Burlington County Health Department, 15 Pioneer Blvd. in Westampton. The dates and times for the walk-in screenings are on March 18 and 25 from 9 a.m. to noon, and on March 26 from 12:30-1:30 p.m.
For Bordentown City residents with questions and concerns with their water, city officials encourage residents to contact Myers at 609-556-7837.
For questions about lead in the home, call the national hotline 1-800-424-LEAD (5323). Other resources include the Southern Regional Lead and Healthy Homes Coalition at 856-665-6000, the Burlington County Health Department Lead Program at 609-265-5515, and the state of New Jersey Lead Safe program https://www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/dhcr/offices/leadsafe.html.