Residents of southeast Los Angeles County in California recently discovered from media reports and public health experts that their homes, schools, and places of work may be contaminated with lead. This may be due to a former battery recycling plant in Vernon that had supposedly spewed toxic chemicals before it stopped its operations.
The L.A. County Department of Public Health (DPH) conducted a community survey that involved 4,214 homes. The survey was done to find out what the residents thought about the supposed contamination, and if they themselves had experienced side effects from the said contamination.
“One of the concerning issues from the release of the DPH survey was the fact that 55 percent of those who responded reported that they had not received results from soil testing done in their yard. Knowing if your yard is contaminated with high lead levels is crucial,” LA Testing‘s Huntington Beach facility laboratory manager Michael Chapman said.
“Environmental tests for lead in soil, dust, air, or water can be done quickly so families can take the appropriate actions to protect themselves from any exposure hazards inside or outside of their homes. At LA Testing, we provide environmental lead tests to the public with results in days, not weeks, or months. We also offer easy-to-use test kits for lead and a wide array of other common environmental exposure concerns,” Chapman added.
Some of these tests showed that some of the children had high levels of lead in them. Lead is known to cause developmental disorders and brain damage in people. Ideally, not even a trace amount of lead should be found inside the bodies of humans.
In California, doctors are only required to advise that children should undergo lead testing if the children’s family says that it resides in a house that is over 40 years old with peeling paint and is on low-income assistance programs.
Also, public schools are not even legally required to test their water for lead. (Related: Lead contamination around closed Philadelphia factory threatens health of children, pregnant women.)
These measures are not enough for the sponsors of two bills that seek to mandate lead testing for water sources in the state of California:
- Assemblyman William J. “Bill” Quirk (Democrat of Hayward), who authored Assembly Bill (AB) 1316, which seeks to have the state DPH urge doctors to ask more questions of families who are at risk of lead exposure by including an assessment of whether the family lives near a major highway or a former lead or steel smelter, or whether members of the family may have been exposed to lead by spending time in a particular house or building.
- Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (Democrat of San Diego), who penned AB746, that seeks to require all school districts to test their water for lead contamination.
There have been some opposition to the bills. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the California Medical Association (CMA) have some reservations when it comes to the proposed legislations, with CMA spokeswoman Joanne Adams saying that they object taking away discretion from doctors and mandating costly lead tests even when the doctor already thought that there is no need to take one.
Gonzalez said that despite the presence of California Water Board’s free lead testing program, less than 10 percent of the schools in California have actually used it. “You can’t have water with anything testing above the limits that are drinkable and not follow through and fix for the solution. We want to ensure that when you find lead, water is shut off and parents are notified so they can have their kids tested,” she said.
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