My Turn: State must act to protect kids from lead poisoning

Each year, more than 1,000 Granite State children test positive for dangerous levels of lead in their blood. That’s at least 1,000 new cases of childhood lead poisoning in New Hampshire, year after year. And, because far too few children are being tested (only about one-third, according to recent estimates), the number of cases is likely higher. We all know that our kids are our future. The future strength of our communities and our state depend on our children, and on their ability to reach their full potential.

Unfortunately, this largely silent problem continues to threaten the health and bright futures of New Hampshire’s kids. The deterioration or disturbance of lead-painted surfaces – which can be present in homes and buildings constructed before 1978 – continues to create exposures for kids in communities throughout our state. Children poisoned by lead face lifelong consequences. As the Centers for Disease Control concluded in 2012, there is no safe level of lead exposure for kids, and even low levels of exposure can lead to irreversible harm, including lowered IQs, attention-related behaviors and poor academic achievement.

This is clearly not the future we want for our children. And with significant economic costs in the form of lost earnings, as well as costs associated with special education, medical treatment and crime linked to exposure to lead, it’s not the future we want for our communities, our state or our economy.

Fortunately, there are solutions, and that’s why we’re pleased the Senate recently unanimously passed SB 135, which moves us forward in meeting the challenge of childhood lead poisoning here in the Granite State. Working together, along with co-sponsors from both parties – Republican Sens. Jeb Bradley and Sharon Carson, and Democrats Sen. David Pierce and Rep. Mary Jane Wallner – we are advancing a number of much-needed steps that build off of our existing statutory and regulatory structure. The bill ensures that more kids will be screened for lead poisoning, so that problems can be caught sooner rather than later. It will ensure that parents and landlords are better informed about the hazards of lead, and ways to reduce those hazards. It also establishes a broad-based commission to assess new, common-sense strategies for preventing future cases of lead poisoning in rental units and childcare facilities.

We’re proud to be advancing this important legislation – and seeking solutions for our kids, our communities and our state – and we look forward to ongoing work with stakeholders as well as our colleagues in the House in order to bring this important work to fruition. New Hampshire’s kids (and our future) deserve no less.

(Sen. Andy Sanborn is a Republican representing Senate District 9, and serves as the chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Sen. Dan Feltes is a Democrat representing Senate District 15. Sen. Nancy Stiles is a Republican representing Senate District 24.)

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