Lawmakers Urge Christie to Appropriate Money for Lead Control

By Michael Hill

When 2-year-old Rushaine’s grandmother thinks of what happened to him and what it likely means for the rest of his life — disrupting his growth and development — tears come to her eyes.

The family moved into the second floor of a rental when Rushaine was a year old. His mother and grandmother say after seven months, Rushaine had a series of unexplained seizures.

“The doctors said he needed to be seen as soon as possible. He could go through a coma, seizures, anything. His levels were very high. They said that we need to watch him while he sleeps, while he is walking, because he uses to have silent seizures,” said Deborah Bradley, Rushaine’s grandmother.

The family has moved away from the apartment with lead paint on the floor, walls and window casings.

Last week, the Senate and Assembly approved putting $10 million in the state’s Lead Hazard Control Fund for the next budget. It would provide grants and loans to remove the outlawed toxin from houses and apartments.

“It costs $5,000 to $10,000 to get the lead out. Once we do it’s gone forever. Putting this money into that fund is paying it forward for the next generation,” said Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey President and CEO Staci Berger.

Today, legislative leaders and advocates called on the governor to appropriate the money for the fund, which he pocket-vetoed in January as spending outside the budget.

“It’s disappointing they don’t think we have a crisis. When you can’t drink the water or live where you choose to live without poisoning your children, I don’t know how you can’t call this a crisis,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney.

“The administration has to do the right thing to make sure they sign the bill and we will make sure it gets in the budget and stays in the budget,” said Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto.

Fifty cents of every gallon of paint sold in New Jersey is designated for the fund but critics say the Christie administration has diverted the money to other parts of the budget for six years.

“It’s time for the governor to get the lead out of his system and get going by allocating this money back into the budget because that’s what’s important,” said Assemblywoman Grace Spencer.

Today, the governor addressed the issue.

“It’s certainly something I’m willing to consider in the 2017 budget but not as supplemental spending bill,” he said.

With all the heightened attention recently given the doctor who has been treating lead poisoning at University Hospital going all the way back to the 1970s says of utmost importance is preventing exposure to lead.

“Once we get to a point where I see a child that has lead poisoning we’ve lost the battle,” said Dr. Steven Marcus.

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