June 25, 2007

Proposed Legislation in NJ: Monitor Mercury Exposed Children

Lawmakers propose monitoring of children exposed to mercury
By JOHN MARTINS Staff Writer, (856) 794-5114
Published: Saturday, June 23, 2007

A pair of New Jersey congressmen introduced legislation Friday to provide millions of dollars for the testing and monitoring of children exposed to mercury contamination.

U.S. Rep. Frank LoBindo, R-2nd, said in a news release that the bill — H.R. 2813, or the Children's Mercury Exposure Act — was crafted in direct response to the contamination of the Kiddie Kollege day-care facility in Franklin Township, Gloucester County.

"The Kiddie Kollege incident reminds us that children can, and unfortunately will, be exposed to mercury from contaminated industrial sites," he said. "(The law) attempts to ensure that children and parents have knowledge about the risks, that the scope of this problem is determined and that the appropriate level of testing and care is provided."

If approved, the law would establish a research program at the National Institutes of Health to study the risks that mercury exposure poses to children. It would also require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, to work with state health departments in studying and reporting the prevalence of such exposure.

The proposed law would also authorize $10 million in block grants to be distributed to states for the initial and long-term testing of children exposed to the harmful element, a neurotoxin that affects the nervous system, lungs, brains and kidneys.

In July 2006, the Kiddie Kollege day-care center was closed after mercury contamination was discovered in the soil. The facility was built on a site formerly used by a thermometer manufacturer.

The Children's Mercury Exposure Act was co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews, D-1st.

Once the contamination was discovered, the children and staff at the day-care center tested positive for mercury exposure.

Long-term testing, however, was not authorized, and LoBiondo said he has contacted both the CDC and the Environmental Protection Agency to request expanded testing at the homes of those affected by the contamination.

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