While Flint, Michigan received an array of media coverage with its recent lead poisoning fiasco, it is by no means the only American city grappling with such a widespread toxicity issue. California itself is now grappling with lead poisoning issues related to a recently-closed Exide battling recycling plant located in Vernon, California.
Despite receiving repeated citations throughout the decades prior to its closing, the Exide plant continued to spew lead and arsenic into the surrounding community.
Now, those same communities are finally seeing an open road to retributions thanks to the public release of a chemical and lead analysis by the California Department of Public Health earlier this year. This report determined that at least 285 children living in the immediate and neighboring southeast LA County communities had dangerously elevated levels of lead in their bloodstream. In addition to these confirmed cases, all children currently living within the vicinity of the Exide battery recycling plant were found to be almost twice as likely to have high blood lead levels when compared to the national average for children.
These alarming statistics helped to expedite the approval of Gov. Brown’s request for $177 million in emergency funding for the fast and complete cleanup of any lingering lead contamination around the closed plant. Although, while the money has since been made immediately available, it’s still a long road to recovery. The proposed plan will take place over a three-year period and will include the full soil testing for lead poisoning for as much as 10,000 properties in a 1.7-mile radius around the plant, and the complete clean up of at least 2,500 of the most contaminated properties.
But for many, these actions are coming just a bit too late. The Exide battery facility closed its doors just over a year ago after the years of emissions violations and local outcry finally became too loud to silence. However, while state environmental officials were fast to note that the lead poisoning emissions from the smelting facility weren’t the only factor contributing to heightened local lead poisoning, those living the area don’t agree with the sentiment. Residents, tired of having their lead poisoning concerns of the facility ignored for years, are now organizing a series of personal injury lawsuits against state officials and lawmakers for not having tested the soil earlier and having outdated lead standards.
In a recent Pediatrics journal article, members of AAP’s environmental health council report stated that “Most existing lead standards fail to protect children.” The authors went on to explain that existing standards for how much lead can be present in paint, water, dust, and soil were written more with appeasement in mind and are less about what is actually healthy, creating instead an “an illusion of safety”.
The country no longer produces lead-based residential paint, nor does it use lead plumbing in its pipes. Yet, the history of its previous widespread usage is all around us. Millions of older homes still contain remnants of lead paint and plumbing that was never replaced, while newer home constructions may stand on what previously was an industrial site or local dumping ground where the dust, water, and soil is still contaminated. When young children and even pets ingest materials that come in contact with these contaminants, the metals can get into their bloodstream and cause a host of detrimental lead poisoning problems. Generally, even low-levels of lead exposure and lead poisoning has been linked to long-term negative impacts on IQ, attention, and behavior.
If you suspect lead poisoning is impacting your child, contact your pediatrician and our personal injury attorneys for next-step information.