Federal Agency Responds to LoBiondo Call for Report on Childhood Exposure to Mercury
Motivated by Kiddie Kollege incident, Congressman continues efforts to ensure answers are available to parents of children exposed to mercury
In late July 2006, it was revealed that the Kiddie Kollege day care facility in Franklin Township was built on a site previously used by a thermometer manufacturer with a history of mercury contamination and had not been properly cleaned up. While initial testing of the children and staff determined there was mercury exposure, long-term testing was not authorized. In the subsequent weeks, U.S. Congressman Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ-02) and Rob Andrews (NJ-01) 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.
Since that time, LoBiondo has continued to work with federal agencies, local elected officials and his Congressional colleagues to ensure the questions and legitimate concerns of local parents and those families in similar situations across the country are answered. In response to a request by LoBiondo, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has convened a work group of scientists to study the risks posed to children from exposure to high levels of mercury, and report back to Congress by October 1, 2008.
"As the Kiddie Kollege incident reminds us, children can and unfortunately may be exposed to mercury from contaminated industrial sites," said LoBiondo. "I applaud the ATSDR for taking the necessary steps to ensure children and parents have knowledge about the risks posed by this exposure. I will continue to press for science-based answers for those children and parents who continue to worry about the long-term effects of mercury exposure, and work with the respective agencies to ensure the relevant facts are known."
In a letter to LoBiondo, ATSDR Director Howard Frumkin wrote: "Thank you for your concern regarding childhood exposure to high mercury levels, a problem exemplified by the events at the Kiddie Kollege day care facility in Franklin Township, New Jersey. Your interest in this issue has helped make clear the need to describe the impact of high level mercury exposures among children in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the ATSDR have recently convened a work group of scientists with a specific focus on unique, high level mercury exposures among children."
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. ATSDR has determined this risk has emerged as an important public health issue.
ATSDR Director Frumkin's letter to LoBiondo went on to say: "The work group is focusing on specific data gaps as they relate to high level childhood mercury exposure Once these data gaps are addressed, the work group will use this information to make recommendations directed towards the prevention of high level mercury exposures and the appropriate methods for addressing environmental contamination sources In addition to this Agency report, the work group will produce a scientific publication to disseminate the findings within the scientific and public health communities."