Are California’s Children at Risk for Lead Poisoning?
Are California’s Children at Risk for Lead Poisoning?

A Reuters investigation this year has revealed high rates of childhood lead poisoning in dozens of California communities. In some neighborhoods in the Bay Area and downtown Los Angeles, rates were actually higher than those in Flint, Michigan, where water contamination has been national news for years.

The investigation found at least 29 neighborhoods in California had elevated rates of lead that were at least as high as Flint. According to the state Department of Public Health, 2% of children tested statewide have elevated levels of lead in their system. However, certain areas of California have shown rates three times as high as Flint. Neighborhoods in Alameda, Los Angeles, Monterey and Humboldt counties have all shown higher rates of elevated lead levels.

Effects of Lead Poisoning on Children

The CDC estimates that 2.5% of children ages 6 and under in the U.S. have an elevated lead level. No amount of lead is considered safe for humans to ingest. Lead poisoning can cause irreversible health problems, including cognitive impairment and behavior disorders. These issues can have detrimental long-term effects on a child’s life. Lead poisoning often leading to poor school performance, high dropout rates and more issues into adulthood.

The Lead Problem in California

California’s formal threshold for a “lead poisoning case” in children is 14.5 micrograms per deciliter. When a child tests this high, the health department conducts a home inspection. Families with children who test above 4.5 micrograms per deciliter are offered services such as educational materials.

Currently, California schools are not required to test children for lead. However, schools can voluntarily test children for free under a California Water Boards program. Unfortunately, less than 10% of schools have taken advantage of the program and conducted lead testing. Of California’s 13,000 schools, only about 1,000 had requested testing.

Legislators Call for Increased Lead Testing

State senators have introduced two bills that address lead poisoning, which will be voted on later this month. AB 1316 urges doctors to ask families more questions to assess their children’s risk of lead exposure. The bill would also require the health department to report the data promptly. The second bill, AB 746, would require all school districts to test their water for lead either once a year, or every three years, depending on how old the building is. If the water tests higher than 15 parts per billion, the school would have to notify parents and shut down the contaminated water source until it is fixed.

Currently, blood testing is available to any child under age 6 on Medi-Cal or other low-income state programs. According to the state health department, of these children, the ones considered at risk of lead exposure are tested for lead at 12 to 24 months old. About 80% of children on Medi-Cal are currently tested.

However, the reality is that children can be exposed to lead in a number of ways—not just their homes. The soil at playgrounds can be contaminated, as can school water fountains. So it is not just children in low-income settings who are at risk of lead poisoning.

With this in mind, AB 1316 originally included a requirement that all young children be tested for lead by their health provider. However, the insurance industry, California Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatricians all lobbied against that provision. According to the California Medical Association, such a requirement would take discretion away from doctors and would require a costly test even if a doctor believes there is no risk.

School Districts Address Lead Poisoning

Some school districts have taken it upon themselves to deal with the issue. San Diego public schools have begun to address the problem by mandating a one-minute daily flushing at each school. Staff members run water through the pipes everyday to help reduce lead levels. Los Angeles Unified School District has been practicing flushing since they began testing their drinking fountains for lead in 2009. The district did not have the funds to replace or fix the fountains at the time. In 2015, the district approved nearly $20 million to end flushing and repair or close the drinking fountains that tested positive for lead.

“Sadly, lead poisoning continues to harm children across the country, leaving many with long-term problems. It is an issue that must be confronted head-on by our schools, as well as our state and local governments,” said Attorney Walter Clark, founder of Walter Clark Legal Group.

Our firm has been handling personal injury cases throughout the California Low Desert and High Desert communities for over 30 years. With a 95% success rate, the California personal injury attorneys at Walter Clark Legal Group will fight to hold those responsible for your loss accountable and win compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you have been injured and want to discuss your legal options, contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. We have offices in Indio, Rancho Mirage, Victorville, and Yucca Valley and represent clients through the entire California Low Desert and High Desert communities.

DISCLAIMER: The Walter Clark Legal Group blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal or medical advice. References to laws are based on general legal practices and vary by location. Information reported comes from secondary news sources. We do handle these types of cases, but whether or not the individuals and/or loved ones involved in these accidents choose to be represented by a law firm is a personal choice we respect. Should you find any of the information incorrect, we welcome you to contact us with corrections.

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