New Hampshire Kids Now Better Protected from Lead Poisoning

Governor Sununu signs new law to strengthen poisoning prevention efforts

Tom Irwin | @TomIrwinNH

As I’ve written in the past, New Hampshire has a lead problem. With the oldest housing stock in the country, and with laws that are simply too weak to protect our kids, every year several hundred more children are diagnosed with lead poisoning. According to the state’s most recent data, 741 New Hampshire kids tested positive for blood lead levels at or above the Centers for Disease Control’s recommended intervention level of 5 micrograms per deciliter – up from 634 in 2015. And because not nearly enough children are being tested, the actual number of cases each year in New Hampshire is likely much higher.

Given the lifelong impacts of lead poisoning, such a high rate of cases is a tragedy for families and our communities. It’s also entirely preventable.

New Legislative Solutions Will Protect More Kids

Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of a persistent group of stakeholders and the strong leadership and support of key lawmakers – Governor Sununu, Senators Dan Feltes and Jeb Bradley, and Representatives Frank Byron and Neal Kurk, to name a few – New Hampshire will be adopting much-needed protections for New Hampshire’s kids. Signed into law on February 8, 2018, SB 247 strengthens our state’s existing lead laws in the following important ways:

  • It makes New Hampshire a “universal testing” state, meaning that all one- and two-year-old children will be tested for the presence of lead, with associated costs covered by insurance. This important change will dramatically increase the number of kids currently being tested for lead poisoning, ensuring better protection for many more children.
  • It aligns New Hampshire’s “action level” – the blood lead level triggering intervention by the state’s Department of Health & Human Services – to be consistent with the Centers for Disease Control’s recommended standard. Our current action level is a blood lead level of 10 micrograms per deciliter, twice the CDC’s recommended level. The new law will phase in a standard of 7.5 in July 2019, and then 5 in July 2021.
  • It establishes requirements to address potential exposures to lead in drinking water. Any time a child is found to have an elevated blood lead level, the state will be required to test the home’s drinking water for the presence of lead. Schools and childcare facilities will now be required to test their drinking water and to undertake remedial measures if lead is detected above Environmental Protection Agency standards.
  • It requires the state to provide information to parents and landlords when a child is diagnosed with a blood lead level of just 3 micrograms per deciliter. This required outreach will be critical to encouraging parents and landlords to identify and address lead exposures early, before a child’s blood lead level increases to higher, more dangerous levels.
  • It provides additional resources to assist property owners in eliminating lead hazards. Under existing programs, funds are available from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development to help property owners to remove lead hazards. In addition to these funds, property owners and childcare centers will now have access to a state loan guarantee program.

Every End is a New Beginning

The passage of SB 247 is the culmination of 18 months of hard work and a lengthy legislative process. And it’s a major, much-needed step forward in addressing the ongoing problem of childhood lead poisoning. But as with all complex issues, there are no silver bullets, and there’s more work to be done. It goes without saying that the health of our kids is worth it.

Finally, we hope you’ll join us in thanking the many elected officials who made this achievement possible. Please take three minutes today to provide a brief thank you message. We’ll compile it with others and deliver them to our legislative champions.

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