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Lautenberg Urges Federal Agencies to Expand Testing and Monitoring of NJ Children and Families Exposed to Mercury

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Location: Newark, NJ


Lautenberg Urges Federal Agencies to Expand Testing and Monitoring of NJ Children and Families Exposed to Mercury

Today, United States Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) called on both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to test the homes of families and expand the testing and monitoring of children who were exposed to mercury while attending the Kiddie Kollege day care in Franklin Township.

The day care facility was closed down on July 28, 2006 due to extremely high levels of mercury vapor. This day care center was apparently built on top of a now-closed thermometer factory.

"The health and safety of New Jersey's children is priority number one, and the federal government must do all it can to ensure those children who may have been exposed get the best possible care," said Senator Lautenberg, who wrote letters to the Director of the CDC as well the EPA Regional Administrator.

In his letter to the head of the CDC, Lautenberg asked the agency to expand conditional testing and monitoring of all children and adults who were exposed to mercury. Currently, the CDC will only continue to test those that have above 5 micrograms of mercury per gram of creatinine.

Parents have expressed serious concern that there may be mercury in their homes. Therefore Lautenberg urged the EPA to immediately offer to test the homes of any parents who had children attending the Kiddie Kollege facility for mercury contamination.

Both letters are attached to this release:

August 29, 2006

Regional Administrator Alan Steinberg US EPA Region II 290 Broadway NY, NY 10007 Dear Administrator Steinberg:

I am writing to urge your agency's immediate assistance regarding the Kiddie College day care center in Franklin Township, New Jersey.

As you are aware, this day care facility was closed down on July 28, 2006 due to extremely high levels of mercury vapor. This day care center was apparently built on top of a now-closed thermometer factory and clearly should never have been allowed to open and operate. The NJ DEP, property owners, Franklin Township officials and others are attempting to determine how this situation occurred.

Early on, no one knew what was happening at Kiddie College and parents saw little cause for alarm. Then the parents of one child who attended the day care center discovered mercury on their daughter's backpack. As you know, mercury exposure and contamination is serious and can result in numerous and significant health effects. Since this incident, these same parents expressed a concern that more mercury may be present in their home or in the homes of other families.

Sixty-nine children and nine adults were then tested for mercury poisoning by the Centers for Disease Control and about one-third of them will require additional monitoring and testing due to mercury levels of concern. This situation is untenable for the parents who entrusted their childrens safety to Kiddie College. They worry about the possible health effects, both short and long term, which mercury exposure could have on their small children.

Parents have expressed a very real concern that there may be more mercury in their home or in the homes of other parents due to direct contact with their children. As you know, mercury is difficult for everyday people to detect, and exposure and contamination is an extremely serious health risk which can result in numerous significant health effects.

I am therefore writing to urge that your agency immediately offer to test the homes for mercury contamination, of any parents who had children attending the Kiddie Kollege facility. Given the above information, it is entirely possible that children may have been bringing mercury into their homes and that it may still be present there. With everything these parents have had to endure recently, it is important to give them peace of mind that their family does not continue to be exposed to mercury in their own home.

Thank you for your review of this important matter. I would appreciate your immediate response. Sincerely,

Frank R. Lautenberg U.S. Senate

August 29, 2006

Dr. Julie Gerberding Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1600 Clifton Road NE Atlanta, GA 30333

Dear Dr. Gerberding:

I am writing to request important additional assistance from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) regarding the Kiddie College day care center in Franklin Township, New Jersey. Specifically, I am urging you to continue testing and monitoring for all children and adults affected by this traumatic situation, not just those who originally tested above 5 micrograms of mercury per gram of creatinine.

As you are aware, this day care facility was closed down on July 28, 2006 due to extremely high levels of mercury vapor. This day care center was apparently built on top of a now closed thermometer factory and clearly should never have been allowed to open and operate.

From the beginning, ATSDR has been very responsive to the concerns of the community and of the parents. I understand that your agency has participated in two community briefings to educate the parents on the current situation of mercury exposure, the possible health effects on their children and to assist them with the urine testing process and explain the results.

As you know, 69 children and 9 adults were tested for mercury exposure by the Centers for Disease Control. I understand that about 2/3 of those tested had levels below your cutoff of 5 micrograms of mercury per gram of creatinine and will not receive further testing by your agency.

I have been contacted by concerned parents of a child who attended Kiddie Kollege and whose test results fall below the cutoff for additional testing. While they are certainly relieved that her levels are below your cutoff, they remain very concerned about the possible health effects that mercury exposure could have on their young child. They have requested assistance in obtaining additional testing for their child, to ensure that she does not face short or long term health effects.

As you can imagine, this situation has been extremely traumatic for both the parents and children. Given the circumstances, I would urge your agency to conduct additional testing and monitoring for the children and adults below the 5 micrograms level. These parents have certainly earned the right to feel that everything possible is being done to monitor the health of their children.

Thank you again for your agency's actions to date. I would appreciate your immediate response to this request.

Sincerely,

Frank R. Lautenberg

http://lautenberg.senate.gov/newsroom/record.cfm?id=262190&

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