Monthly Archives: May 2015

Schools unaware of lead-poisoned kids

By Todd B. Bates, Asbury Park Press

Photo: Tom Spader/Asbury Park Press

Photo: Tom Spader/Asbury Park Press

New Jersey’s rules on lead poisoning have some large loopholes.

Health care providers are required to test children 2 and under twice for toxic lead, a potent poison that can cause a lifetime of learning problems. Nonetheless, about 50,000 children were not tested by age 3, according to the latest state annual report. A loophole: Parents can refuse the test for any reason.

Even if elevated lead is found in a child’s blood, the state doesn’t require that schools be notified. That can leave schools in the dark about which students have lead poisoning and may need special education or other services — findings confirmed by an Asbury Park Press survey of 27 school districts, including those with the highest percentages of lead-poisoned children in the state.

Lead poisoning — often arising from exposure to lead paint dust and chips in older homes in urban areas — can cause learning, behavioral and other problems, but is preventable. It can cost more than $12,000 a year for special education per child, according to one study.

“We have to do a better job” addressing lead poisoning, said Jay S. Schneider, a pathology professor and lead poisoning expert at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. “We have to recognize that this is still a big problem. There are lots of kids who are being adversely affected by this, who are having their futures taken away from them. It’s just an awful thing and it’s unnecessary and people are suffering and they shouldn’t be.” Read more

Mold in vacant homes poses health threat

By  Kirsti Marohn, kmarohn@stcloudtimes.com

MoldceilingFrom the outside, it looks like a typical two-story split-entry on a corner lot, not much different than the other houses in this newer suburban development.

The first indication that something is amiss is the sign posted in the yard announcing that the house is in tax forfeiture. Step inside the front door, and the reason for the home’s emptiness becomes startlingly clear.

Black mold covers the walls in angry splotches from ceiling to floor. It coats woodwork, sinks, appliances and doors. In the basement, it has decimated the ceiling, leaving a gaping hole.

Chad Martini, land management director for Stearns County, says it’s the worst case of mold he’s ever seen.

The county had planned to demolish the house at 424-13th Ave. N in Wildwood Estates after it went into tax forfeiture last fall. But several contractors have called the county with interest in buying, rehabilitating and reselling it.

So the county will try to sell it at a public auction this spring for a minimum bid of $10,000, a fraction of its original value. In 2009, the county estimated the house’s market value at more than $235,000.

The county’s goal is to get the property back on the tax rolls, Martini said.

“I think what we’re hoping to see is a contractor that will come in, buy the house, rehab it and make it a good neighbor in the neighborhood,” he said.

Across the nation, mold has been a problem in houses left empty after the housing market crisis. In some states, it’s estimated that as many as half of all foreclosed homes have mold and mildew issues.

Some mold contains toxins, so if it’s not removed and remediated, mold can cause serious health issues. That’s especially true for people with asthma, allergies or other respiratory problems. Read more