One-Third of High Risk Children Untested for Lead Poisoning in California

The Flint Water Crisis has brought lead poisoning back into the national spotlight, decades after lead-based paint and leaded gasoline have been banned across the country. The renewed awareness of the neurotoxic effects of lead poisoning, especially in young children, might have created a sense of urgency in state, local, and federal governments to eradicate the epidemic, yet problems abound across the country.

Preventing childhood lead exposure begins with finding the children who are exposed to lead. That means ensuring high risk children—those living in homes built before lead-based paint was banned—get tested regularly to see if they have a detectable blood-lead level. However, according to one recent study, nearly one in three high-risk children in California have gone without blood-lead testing. This makes it impossible to know the full extent of the lead poisoning epidemic in the state—and, because California is so large, makes estimates of the national epidemic uncertain as well.

California regulations call for testing children at 12 months and 24 months. Yet nearly every county in California fell short of that goal. Statewide, 34 percent of high-risk 1- and 2-year-olds have gone without blood-lead testing. In some counties, such as Fresno, that number climbs as high as 70 percent. Without adequate blood-lead testing, it is impossible to have adequate childhood lead poisoning prevention.

Childhood lead poisoning has lasting effects on both the individual child and society at large. Lead poisoning interferes with a young child’s developing brain, causing lasting cognitive damage and putting them behind their peers in academic achievement. It also affects a child’s ability to control his or her impulses, making lead poisoned children more likely to be aggressive and act without thinking through the consequences. At a community level, areas with high rates of childhood lead poisoning have higher crime and lower economic productivity. That is why it is so important to prevent childhood lead poisoning before it occurs.

California is taking some steps towards tackling the problem. Lawmakers in the state recently unanimously approved legislation that would revise the rules for when children must be tested for a blood-lead level. According to the Public Health Institute, an estimated 300,000 more children could be tested each year if the bill is signed into law. However, the bill only goes so far. The most common source of childhood lead exposure is lead-based paint in older homes, and unless there is adequate environmental intervention to remove the lead-based paint, identifying who is exposed and after exposure will do little to end the epidemic.

For now, residents in older rental housing have to be vigilant in ensuring their children are safe from chipping, peeling, or otherwise defective lead-based paint. Be sure to report any signs of defective paint to your landlord, and bring your child to get a blood-lead test on a regular basis. If your child has a detectable level, inform your landlord right away and insist that he or she abate the hazard. Finally, contact an experience lead poisoning attorney to help your child get the resources he or she needs to overcome the permanent effects of childhood lead poisoning.

The lead poisoning lawyers at Levy Konigsberg LLP have decades of experience and have won over $100 million in verdicts and settlements on behalf of lead poisoned children. Contact the lead poisoning law firm today for a free case consultation.

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