May 5, 2017

PYC State Farm presentationStatistics have shown that the percentage of children in Paterson with lead poisoning (from all sources including water) is higher than in Flint, Michigan. Thanks to a $100,000 grant from State Farm's Youth Advisory Board, the Paterson Youth Council (PYC) has been performing lead-level testing on samples of drinking water from throughout Paterson.

State Farm representatives recently visited NJCDC's headquarters to present the PYC--a citywide youth-led and youth-driven civic organization facilitated by NJCDC that serves as the premier voice for Paterson's young people—with a check for $100,000, which made this program possible, and to learn about their findings. The youth delivered an in-depth presentation that described the dangers of lead levels in Paterson's drinking water.

Outlining their findings, they reported that of the 101 Paterson homes they tested, all tested positive for lead and 63 tested positive for elevated levels of lead (the level set by the EPA to determine what is safe and what isn't).

PYC State Farm presentationThere are many harmful effects of lead, including hearing impairment, aggression, hyperactive behaviors, renal disease, and behavior and learning problems, and the teens made sure to describe these in great details before discussing the measures city residents can take to make their drinking water safer. These include getting your home water tested, avoiding drinking and cooking with hot water, installing water filters, and running your faucets on cold for 30 seconds to two minutes to "flush" lead water out of your pipes.

Local State Farm Agent Sam Balady was quite impressed with the presentation by the students. He said, "The students were so passionate about the project and their presentation showed that they really care about the issue of lead in the water." It was clear to him that this was not just a project for them but rather an issue that affected their family and their community as a whole. "While informative, the study was also quite alarming, and gave us all a call to action. I am very excited to see the outcome of the project."

The PYC will be discussing these safety measures as part of their public awareness and education campaign. Over the next few months, the teens will create and deliver presentations in English, Spanish, and Bengali to inform the city's diverse population of the dangers in their drinking water and what they can do to make it safer to drink. PYC member Shariff Hassan said, "I look forward to informing Paterson residents about the steps they can take to make their drinking water safer. Our project was only possible because of State Farm, and we are all very grateful for their generosity."

According to Arlene Lester of the State Farm Public Affairs Department, "The heart of the State Farm Youth Advisory board was to give students the opportunity to show their passion and concern for their community. It was also designed to empower them to play a leading role in improving education and creating sustainable change in their local communities through service-learning. The students of the Paterson Youth Council embody these traits and State Farm is here to help them reach their goals."

NJCDC's CEO Bob Guarasci said, "We are grateful to State Farm for investing in Paterson's youth, as well as the health of all Paterson residents. Because of their generous support, we will be able to inform our community about the levels of lead in their drinking water and steps they can take to protect their health. We are also fortunate in that the Passaic Valley Water Commission has expressed a willingness to work with us and our youth to address all of the findings."

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