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For Immediate Release

March 27, 2018

CONTACT: Lana Lee, (973) 643-3876 (office) |(609) 651-5855 (cell)  | llee@acnj.org

Newark children twice as likely to be lead poisoned as children statewide, Newark Kids Count reports

Despite Newark’s progress in reducing the number of children with elevated blood lead levels, nearly a quarter of all tested Newark children under 6-years-old still have some harmful levels of lead in their blood, according to the 2018 Newark Kids Count released today.

“Newark has both key risk factors for lead exposure – high rates of child poverty and high numbers of homes built before 1978, the year lead paint was banned. Lead exposure can cause lifelong harm including learning disabilities, behavior issues as well as damage to children’s physical health,” said Cecilia Zalkind, president and CEO of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, which produces the annual data report on child well-being. This year’s report featured a special section on childhood lead exposure in the city.

There has also been little to no movement in Newark’s rate of investigating and removing lead from homes, which pales in comparison to other local health departments with high caseloads and similar demographics.

“That is why there is an urgent need to help families fight lead exposure before it begins. An effective lead prevention strategy requires strong collaboration among city officials, health care providers, community leaders and families to use data and target areas with high concentrations of older housing. This cannot be done without an extensive targeted investment to end lead poisoning," said Peter Chen, ACNJ policy counsel.

In 2016, Newark completed 16 percent of home investigations while cities like Plainfield, Jersey City, Irvington, Paterson and Trenton completed nearly all or 100 percent of their investigations. That same year, no abatements were completed in Newark out of the 14 cases which were required by the city.
Although the rate of young children tested with elevated blood lead levels of at least 5 micrograms per deciliter, the amount which would trigger action by the local health department, has gradually declined from 6.4 percent in 2012 to 4.7 percent in 2016, 24 percent of tested children under six-years-old had a range of 3-4 micrograms per deciliter.

Disparities remain in the rate of testing and children tested with elevated blood lead levels among neighborhoods. For instance, in 2015, only 40 percent of children under age 6 living in the West Ward’s Ivy Hill and Vailsburg sections were tested for lead, the lowest percentage throughout the city. In addition, 8.7 percent of these tested children had elevated blood levels, compared to 2.2 percent of tested children living in the Ironbound section.

On a positive note, Newark Kids Count reported fewer expectant mothers receiving late or no prenatal care at 34 percent in 2015, compared with 39 percent in 2011. And the number of families participating in state-funded home visitation programs grew from 299 families in 2014 to 347 in 2017. These regular visits from a nurse or other health professional help nurture positive parent-child relationships as well as resources and support.

Other Newark KIDS COUNT findings:

  • The number of licensed child care centers in Newark continued to decline from 183 to 139, and the overall capacity fell by 3 percent, between 2013 and 2017. Fewer family day care providers are caring for children in their own homes, a decrease of 14 percent since 2013.
  • Sixty-six percent of Newark births in 2015 were to unmarried women, compared to 33 percent statewide.
  • Newark’s rate of infant mortality has consistently remained higher than the state average, with a rate of 7.5 percent compared to 4.8 percent in 2015.
  • For the 2016-17 school year, more than 7,000 students attended full-day public preschool in Newark - a 10 percent increase from 2012-13 school year.
  • Roughly 68 percent of Newark children live in low-income households - compared to the state average of 31 percent, and 59 percent of families spent 30 percent or more of their income on rent.

Download report.

In an effort to highlight the needs of young children in Newark and statewide, ACNJ was recently selected to represent New Jersey in the national Think Babies campaign, supported by the early childhood advocacy group ZERO TO THREE. Key campaign priorities include: quality, affordable child care; time for parents to bond with their babies; healthy emotional development; and strong physical health and nutrition.

ACNJ’s first Think Babies event – Strolling Thunder New Jersey, will take place on May 21, 2018 in Trenton and will bring families and early childhood advocates together from across the state to remind policymakers that success for our children begins at birth.

Advocates for Children of New Jersey is the trusted, independent voice putting children’s needs first for nearly 40 years.  Our work results in better laws and policies, more effective funding and stronger services for children and families.  And it means that more children are given the chance to grow up safe, healthy, and educated.  For more information, visit www.acnj.org.  Follow ACNJ on Twitter @acnjforkids and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/acnjforkids.

KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Follow Annie E. Casey Foundation on Twitter @aeckidscount and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/KIDSCOUNT.



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