Gov. Phil Murphy and the New Jersey Poison Center announced the establishment of a 24/7 Health Hotline for residents with questions and concerns about the health effects of lead exposure.
The hotline can provide callers with information on what to do if their home has a lead service line, where to get water filters, how to participate in the city’s service line replacement program, as well as the phone number and locations where the City of Newark is distributing free cases of bottled water.
Calls to the Health Hotline are answered 24/7 by trained medical professionals — doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. Assistance is available in 150 languages.
“Young children and pregnant women are most at risk for lead exposure,” said New Jersey Department of Health Acting Commissioner Judith Persichilli in a statement. “Most children with lead exposure don’t exhibit symptoms. That’s why it’s so important that children under six, nursing mothers and pregnant women to be tested for lead exposure.”
The governor said concerned families could also focus on giving their children healthy foods — with calcium, iron and Vitamin C — that may prevent lead from being absorbed into the body. Milk, yogurt, cheese and leafy vegetables like spinach offer calcium; lean meats, beans, peanut butter and cereals provide iron; and oranges and green and red peppers are a good source of Vitamin C, as well as juices such as orange, tomato and grapefruit.
“The New Jersey Poison Center has a long history of managing the effects of lead exposure from a variety of sources,” said Dr. Diane Calello, executive and medical director of the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System (NJPIES) at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and a pediatric toxicologist with extensive experience and research in environmental lead exposure in children. “Whether it is a child in an older home with indoor lead paint, a person concerned about drinking water, or a variety of other sources, we have experts standing by to offer advice to the public and health care professionals alike.”
NJPIES offers guidance on how to prevent lead exposure, the health effects of lead, and offers consultation to health care professionals managing patients with elevated blood lead levels.
The Department of Health said it has renewed its #kNOwLEAD public education campaign to increase awareness of all lead hazards including lead-based paint in homes built before 1978, leaded pipes and imported goods such as certain spices, ceramic pottery and some herbal remedies and folk medicine.
The City of Newark and the state Department of Environmental Protection have recommended households in the Pequannock water district use bottled water to drink, cook and mix powdered baby formula. Families living in the area should also give pets bottled water. Families who participate in WIC can get ready-to-feed formula from the three WIC clinics serving the city.
The Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness also provides lead testing. University Hospital in Newark will again offer free lead testing on Aug. 24, 2019.
The phone number for the Health Hotline is 1-866-448-2432.