Governor Signs Legislation Updating DOH Regs On Blood Lead Levels In Kids

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The Governor signed legislation, P.L.2017, c.7 (S-1830 / A-3411 (Rice, Vitale, Turner, Muoio, Benson, Singleton, Greenwald, Pinkin, Downey, Sumter, Wimberly)), February 6 requiring the Department of Health (DOH) to update current regulation related to what is considered an ‘elevated’ blood lead level in children.  The legislation also requires the DOH to adopt ‘appropriate responses’ that are consistent with current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.

The Bill

Specifically, the new law, which takes effect immediately, amends current statute related to childhood lead poisoning to require that Department of Health (DOH) regulations regarding testing for, and responses to, elevated blood lead levels in children be consistent with the most recent recommendations of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In 2012, the CDC revised its benchmark for when elevated blood lead levels in children should trigger responsive action, lowering the action level from 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood to five micrograms per deciliter.  The new law requires DOH to revise its regulations to make them consistent with the current CDC benchmark, and further requires DOH, within 30 days after enactment, and on at least a biennial basis thereafter, to review and revise its rules and regulations to ensure that they comport with the latest CDC guidance.

The law also requires the DOH to promulgate regulations concerning the responsive action to be taken when a child’s blood lead level tests above the CDC benchmark, including performing environmental follow-up, providing notice to the child’s family, performing additional screening of family members, providing case management services, and providing medical treatment, such as chelation therapy. 

In addition, the law specifies that the current DOH public information campaign on lead screening is to:

1) highlight the importance of lead screening and encourage parents to have their children screened for lead poisoning at regular intervals, consistent with the age-based timeframes established by DOH; and

2) provide for the widespread dissemination of information to parents and health care providers on the dangers of lead poisoning, the factors that contribute to lead poisoning, the recommended ages at which children should be tested for lead poisoning, and the elevated blood lead levels that will necessitate responsive action.