By Adelle Schubarg, Environmental Research Assistant
Jordan Jernigan is the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Coordinator for Wake County’s Environmental Services department. He is the sole representative of the lead program for the county and handles all incoming cases, including childhood and prenatal ones. His primary responsibilities include conducting lead investigations and performing routine facility or dwelling inspections.
The most exciting part of the job for Jordan are the home investigations, which he compares to detective work. He loves interacting with diverse community members, learning about their culture, and educating them on lead hazards. Jordan notes the more invasive nature of home investigations compared to public facility monitoring and stresses the importance of establishing relationships with families and community members as well as being aware of cultural boundaries.
He says the most challenging part of his job involves working with community members who want to do remediation work but do not have the funds for permanent solutions and, as a result, are limited to temporary fixes or interim controls.
Jordan hopes to promote more permanent abatement activities by finding a way to provide local funding for lead hazards.
Public education on lead exposure and hazards is another aspect of Jordan’s job, and one that he enjoys greatly. He recently gave a talk to Wake County childcare center operators, informing them of a new lead sampling rule for water in their facilities. He also gave a briefing to the CDC on Lead in Spices, Ceremonial Powders, and Alternative Medicine.
Jordan enjoys hearing from a variety of people, jurisdictions, and states during these educational meetings as they offer new ideas and perspectives on topics that impact his work. Jordan notes that not only do these talks benefit and inform his own work, but aid the community as well, providing him with newfound knowledge that he can then share with the public.
Jordan earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a master’s degree in Environmental Health from East Carolina University (ECU) and is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Public Health from ECU as well.
He started his environmental health career in Wayne County in an on-site wastewater branch permitting septic systems and wells. He spent some time in the Food and Lodgings Program with Wake County before accepting a position as the Food and Lodging Program Specialist for Wilson County.
Jordan found his passion for childhood lead poisoning prevention during this time. While working in Wilson County, he assisted the environmental health specialist with child-occupied facility investigations. Jordan found the various duties and aspects of the lead program interesting, specifically in looking at different building components and working with the public school system on remediation projects.
Following this initial exposure to the lead program, Jordan eventually took over the Wake County program, assuming his current role as Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Coordinator.
Jordan was introduced to the NC Lead and Healthy Homes Task Force through his supervisor who keyed him into the meetings.
Jordan commented on how informative and relevant the meetings were, discussing the benefit in working collaboratively with other environmental health professionals and finding out what was happening around the state.
Attending the meetings also reassured Jordan that he was not alone in the challenges he was facing.
As the sole agent for the Wake County lead program, this exposure and community from the Task Force proved especially helpful. Jordan takes full advantage of the Task Force meetings, receiving feedback and helpful tips from fellow environmental health workers that he then applies to the program in Wake County.