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Camden, New Jersey, is using mobile testing – and bubbles – to get more kids tested for lead

How mobile lead testing in New Jersey helped one Camden family
How mobile lead testing in New Jersey helped one Camden family 02:22

CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — Fourteen percent of children in Camden have elevated lead levels, compared to 2.5% nationally. Now, an effort is underway to get more children tested. 

The push is all about making testing quick and easy, and for one family, the unexpected results led to a surprising discovery. 

Nyasiah Floyd Hamilton was shocked when she found out her 2-year-old son Joshua had high levels of lead in his blood. 

"They said at that age it affects their brain, their growth and development," she said. "So I was very upset because it made me feel like I was a bad mother." 

Doctors say lead exposure usually comes from older homes that are contaminated with lead, which can be toxic to younger children. 

Maria Emerson, of Virtua Health, said the damage can be irreversible.

"There's neurological effects, vision and hearing. You see attention issues, developmental delays," she said. 

Emerson help run the pediatric mobile testing unit for Virtua Health.  

It provides lead blood testing that happens with a flurry of distracting bubbles and a quick finger prick.

Floyd Hamilton said the health department checked her house and tested the other children, but no lead was found. 

"So we came to the conclusion that it was something that he may have ate or came in contact with," she said.

Eventually doctors said it may have been the applesauce contaminated with lead that was recalled, which was one of Joshua's favorite snacks.

Joshua's mom said his lead levels are slowly coming down, his behavior has improved, and she's hoping there won't be any permanent issues.

With more severe cases of lead exposure, there is a Chelation therapy.

Trenton recently launched an effort to expand lead testing as well after high levels of the toxic metal were found near a school and playground.

Learn more about the mobile testing program on Virtua's website.

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