Protecting Newark Families from Lead Exposure

Anyone can fall victim to lead poisoning. However, the prevalence of lead poisoning is much higher in populations where certain risk factors are present. For urban families, poverty and the age of housing stock are strong indicators of lead exposure risk. Newark is an older city and has a high proportion of housing built before 1978, the year in which the federal government banned consumer use of lead-based paint. Because lower income families are more likely to reside in inadequately maintained rental dwellings, deteriorating lead-based paint is more likely to be present in their homes. Furthermore, the age of Newark's housing stock, and the corresponding age of its water distribution system, means that many homes in Newark receive drinking water that has traveled through, and contaminated been by, lead distribution lines and lead interior plumbing components. Likewise, many schools, community centers, and other places of public accommodation receive drinking water piped through lead lines and plumbing. Thus, the families of Newark are exposed to lead through multiple sources. This cumulative toxicological threat places Newark's children at an even greater risk of lead-related harm than at-risk children in other cities.

What can parents do to protect their children from lead poisoning? One initial step that every parent should take in a high risk city like Newark is to request a blood-lead test for their child from their pediatrician. A blood-lead test will not only help measure and document a child's recent exposure to lead, but will also allow medical providers to determine whether the child is in need of any immediate medical treatment. There is no cure for the permanent nervous system damage and other injuries caused by exposure to lead. However, where a child presents with detectable levels of lead in their blood, treatments like chelation therapy can help reduce the child's blood-lead level more quickly and remove lead from the body in order to prevent further harm. Blood-lead testing is also an important step to take in documenting lead poisoning injuries to preserve future legal claims, which can provide a significant source of financial support for permanently disabled lead poisoning victims.

Ideally, a parent can limit their child's exposure to lead in the first place by preventing them from ingesting contaminated substances, including lead-contaminated drinking water. When properly installed, maintained, and replaced as necessary, certain water filtration systems can effectively remove lead from water. However, not all filtration systems are designed to reliably filter out lead, and even systems that can remove most lead under ideal conditions are capable of failing when not used precisely as designed.

In autumn 2018, for example, the City of Newark began distributing water filters to some 40,000 residents. However, this proved to be an empty gesture. As many residents have reported, the City not only failed to provide clear instructions on how to properly install the filters, but also failed to explain the purpose and necessity of water filtration. More significantly, as the EPA recently warned, the filters distributed by Newark may not have worked properly in the first place: During EPA testing, drinking water filtered through the city-provided devices still contained lead levels well over the federal limit.

Thus, for the time being, residents - and especially children - should rely on bottled water or water they are certain has been properly filtered or has not come into contact with lead distribution lines or pipes. Parents should also monitor young children closely during bath time, to ensure that they do notplace wet hands in mouths or try to drink the bath water. Infants, in particular, can be exposed to lead either through breastfeeding or through formula prepared with lead-contaminated water. Thus, mothers who are breastfeeding should vigilantly monitor their own exposure to potential sources of lead, and parents who are formula-feeding should prepare the formula using only bottled or properly filtered water. Lead is more soluble in hot water than in cold, and it can accumulate when water is allowed to stand for long periods of time. Therefore, if tap water is the only available option, only cold water should be used for drinking and cooking, and it should be allowed to run for at least five minutes before use.

To prevent exposure to lead-based paint and lead-based paint dust, occupants of older homes should keep an eye out for chipping or peeling paint. Unless the home has undergone lead testing or abatement, occupants of pre-1978 dwellings should presume that lead may be present. Frequent cleaning, using wet methods such as a damp mop or sponge, can be used to control lead-contaminated dust. Parents should frequently wash their children's hands, particularly before eating or sleeping and after playing outside or on the floor, and should regularly clean any toys or other objects that children are likely to handle.

If you believe you or your child have been exposed to lead in Newark, please contact us at 1-800-210-3634, or through the form on this page. We offer all prospective clients a free case evaluation and look forward to helping you understand your options and move forward with your lead poisoning claims.

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