Newark families worry about long-term effects of lead exposure

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As families around Newark get used to the fact that they may be living off bottled water for the foreseeable future, many say that they are also worried about the long-term effects of lead exposure.

Kathy Scudillo and her 10-year old son Bambino are renting a home on South 14th Street – a neighborhood serviced by the Pequannock Water Treatment Plant. They are entitled to free bottled water because lead levels are high.

Scudillo says that they have been using unfiltered tap water for the last four years. And now her son has tested positive for high levels of lead in his bloodstream.

“I’ve warned him not to go to the tap water. Do not go to the water fountains. I tell him all the time, bottled water only,” Scudillo says.

"When we didn't have the bottled water, I used to drink the cold water the tap water because it was cold,” Bambino says.

CONTINUING COVERAGE: Newark drinking water crisis
MORE: Newark drinking water situation FAQ

Bambino has previously been diagnosed with a learning disability. Scudillo says that she is worried he has been harmed by the lead.

“The school had notified me at one point they felt he was regressing,” she says. “I’m concerned about what it’s doing to his development.”

Bambino’s blood tests revealed levels of lead at 6 micrograms per-deciliter. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that anything over 5 micrograms should raise a red flag. High levels of lead in children in the short-term can cause headaches, nausea or weight loss. Long-term it can affect IQ and cause neurological damage.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka unveiled Tuesday night what he considers to be a call to action. He is recurring volunteers to go door to door to sign up neighbors for replacement of their lead water service lines. People who did not even live in Newark showed up willing to help.

Baraka says that it will be a massive task to sign up the owners of 18,000 properties that have lead service lines. The project will use $120 million from Essex County.

Another recruitment meeting will be held on Wednesday. Anyone wishing to volunteer can contact the Office of the Newark Chief of Staff at 973-733-6400.

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