A report by Reuters suggests that children from dozens of neighborhoods in California are more likely to have elevated levels of lead in their blood than children from Flint, Michigan, which has been without safe drinking water since 2014.
High lead rates in children have also been detected in various parts of the state, including the Bay Area and Los Angeles. (Reuters’ interactive map shows more details about which zip codes are most affected.)
Commonly found in old household paint, plumbing, and gasoline, lead causes health problems for kids including cognitive impairment and attention disorders. Any amount over 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood is considered elevated in young children. In downtown Fresno, 14 percent of children tested had lead levels higher than that, while about 5 percent of those tested in Flint had elevated levels.
Because California only requires the testing of at-risk children (including those with Medi-Cal or who spend a significant amount of time in buildings built before 1978), the state says that the percentage of individuals with elevated lead in their systems is higher than it would be if they tested all children.
California Assembly member Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) recently introduced a bill that would change the state’s Health and Safety Code to make lead testing mandatory for all kids between 6 months and 6 years old.