More than 17% of children in Los Angeles were tested positive to having more elevated levels of lead in their blood. This is 12% higher than the rate of children in Flint, Michigan who tested high.
The blood tests were obtained and analyzed by the Los Angeles Department for Public Health.
The identified San Marino as the biggest hotspot for children being exposed to lead in the L.A. area.
Richard Sun, Mayor of San Marino, is worried about these findings. He, himself, is not aware of any cases of lead poisoning in the area.
He has put city officials on the task of investigating sources of exposure for the children.
The CDC says the threshold for lead poisoning is 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood. A slight elevation from this number can reduce IQ as well as stunt a child’s development. A ‘safe level of lead’ does not exist when it comes to children’s bodies.
In San Marino, old lead-based paint is likely the main source of exposure, county health officials said, but they added that imported food, medicine or pottery from China could also be a factor. About 80 percent of San Marino homes were built before 1960, and the community has a large Asian population, U.S. Census data show.
Exposure from old paint, drinking water and soil are widely researched. Other risks – including some candies, ceramics, spices or remedies containing lead from China, Mexico, India and other countries – are less known.
The L.A. blood data covers nearly 1,550 census tracts, or county subdivisions, each with an average population around 4,000. It shows the number of small children tested in each tract, and how many tested high.
In California, the exposure risks children face can vary wildly by neighborhood. Many L.A. areas have little or no documented lead poisoning. Countywide, 2 percent of children tested high. But in hundreds of areas, the rate is far higher. Reuters crunched the data, and neighborhood-level results can be explored on an interactive map. (See Map, Below)
In the trouble areas, old housing is commonplace. Nearly half of L.A. County’s homes were built before 1960. Lead was banned from household paint in 1978, but old paint can peel, chip, or pulverize into toxic dust.