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California govt. Bureaucrats Hiding Evidence of High Lead Levels in Blood of Children

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In 2014, the state of California began a lead-cleanup effort in the city of Vernon. Widespread contamination had come from a nearby car battery recycling plant that, for years, had been repeatedly cited for improper disposal of hazardous waste. The plant was closed in 2015, after state regulators had allowed it to operate for decades without proper permits. Owner Exide agreed to shutter the plant in a deal to avoid criminal prosecution.

But even though the state has access to medical records showing high levels of lead in the blood of children in certain neighborhoods around the plant, it has yet to share that critical information with any of the agencies directing the cleanup efforts.

Lead is a potent neurotoxin that is particularly dangerous to the developing nervous systems of young children. Lead damage is permanent and irreversible. There is no safe level of exposure.

Health departments stonewalling cleanup effort

The state’s cleanup effort is massive and daunting. As many as 10,000 properties within a 1.7-mile radius of the plant are believed to be contaminated. Soil samples have indicated that 99 percent of houses may have lead levels exceeding the cleanup-required threshold of 80 parts per million. Of those, 2,500 homes may have levels exceeding 1,000 parts per million.

Community members have repeatedly complained that the state is dragging its feet on the cleanup effort. Those complaints were given new life recently when the Los Angeles Times revealed that the state Department of Toxic Substances Control — which is responsible for the cleanup — has been trying unsuccessfully for two years to get state and county health agencies to provide it with the census tract-level information on lead levels in blood. In September, it finally filed a formal request with the state Department of Public Health.

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