LoBiondo Introduces "Children's Mercury Exposure Act of 2007"
To protect children in New Jersey and across the nation, U.S. Congressman Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ-02) today introduced H.R. 2813, the "Children's Mercury Exposure Act of 2007." Joined by fellow New Jersey Representative Rob Andrews (NJ-01), LoBiondo's legislation is in direct response to the mercury contamination of children attending the former Kiddie Kollege day care facility in Franklin Township. In the summer of 2006, it was revealed that Kiddie Kollege was built upon on a site that was previously used by a thermometer manufacturer with a history of mercury contamination and had not been properly cleaned up.
"The Kiddie Kollege incident reminds us that children can and unfortunately will be exposed to mercury from contaminated industrial sites," said LoBiondo. "The Children's Mercury Exposure Act of 2007' attempts to ensure that children and parents have knowledge about the risks posed by this exposure; that the scope of this problem is determined; and that the appropriate level of testing and care is provided. I appreciate Representative Andrews' willingness to work with me to help ensure parents and children in our districts and elsewhere get the answers and treatment they deserve."
In late July 2006, Kiddie Kollege was closed due to the discovery of mercury contamination in the soil. While initial testing of the children and staff determined there was mercury exposure, long-term testing was not authorized. In the subsequent weeks, LoBiondo contacted both the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to request expanded testing of the homes of children and staff at Kiddie Kollege. Over the past year, LoBiondo has continued to work with the CDC, the EPA, state agencies, local elected officials and his Congressional colleagues to craft legislation that would meet the needs and requests of families whose children were exposed to mercury at Kiddie Kollege.
Specifically, the "Children's Mercury Exposure Act of 2007" would:
· Establish a program of research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) regarding the risks posed by all levels of exposure of children to mercury from mercury contaminated industrial sites;
· Require the CDC, working in coordination with state departments of health, to conduct a study on the prevalence of the exposure of children to mercury from mercury contaminated industrial sites; and present to Congress a preliminary report of the prevalence of such occurrences one year from the date of enactment; and
· Provide block grants through the CDC to state departments of health to conduct initial and long-term testing of children exposed to mercury from mercury-contaminated industrial sites.
LoBiondo's legislation authorizes $10 million in block grants for fiscal year 2008 to be distributed by the CDC to the states for medical testing of children exposed to mercury, which could include those affected at the Kiddie Kollege site. Based on the CDC report required under LoBiondo's legislation, additional federal funding in future years would be set aside as needed for similar mercury exposure incidents across the country.
Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that can affect the nervous system, lungs, brain, and kidneys. According to EPA, mercury is present at a number of contaminated industrial sites across the United States. Due to their unique behaviors, such as soil ingestion from normal hand-to mouth contact, children have a particular risk of exposure from these mercury contaminated industrial sites. The Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has determined this risk has emerged as an important public health issue.