High Lead Levels Found in Children in Dozens of California Communities

Children in more than two-dozen California communities have lead levels in their blood as high or higher as those found in Flint, Michigan, according to a new investigation by Reuters.

In one central Fresno neighborhood, for example, 13.6 percent of children under the age of 6 had elevated blood lead levels — nearly three times the rate seen during Flint’s recent water contamination crisis. High lead levels are classified as anything at or above 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, an exposure that would “warrant a public health response,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told Reuters.  

Lead was once a common component in household paint, gasoline, and piping. Families that live in older structures often still have lead-based materials in their homes. Children exposed to high levels of lead can develop cognitive impairment and attention disorders.

“It’s a widespread problem and we have to get a better idea of where the sources of exposure are,” California Assembly member Bill Quirk, who chairs the legislature’s Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials, told Reuters. Quirk introduced a bill last week that would require lead screening for all California children.