By Miriam Raftery
March 27, 2017 (San Diego) – Last week, lead contamination was discovered at a school in the San Diego Unified School District. Testing was done after a service dog refused to drink the water and a film was noticed on the water’s surface. Now, San Diego Unified School District has announced it will test all local schools’ water systems.
But that’s just the tip of a very big iceberg. An investigation by Reuters News Service reveals that children in 29 California communities have lead poisoning levels as high, or in some cases higher than Flint Michigan.
Reuters obtained the records from the California Department of Public health. One neighborhood in Fresno had 14 percent of children test positive for lead levels above federal safety standards. By contrast, just 5 percent of children in Flint Michigan were above the threshold set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Statewide, the testing, done in 2012, found that 2 percent of all California children had rates at or above the federal safety standard. other communities with high lead levels including some older neighborhoods in Los Angeles and the East Bay area near San Francisco.
There is no safe level for lead, though very high levels can cause harm to children’s nervous system, organ damage, permanent learning disabilities and behavior issues.
The statewide study didn’t look at all children – only those under age six and considered at risk for lead exposure, such as those living in older homes and those on Medicaid, typically in poor households.
Testing all children could show even more have been harmed, since even children in newer homes could be ingesting lead-tainted water if they attend an older school with lead water pipes.
Besides water, lead poisoning can be caused by ingesting lead-based paint, contaminated soils or other sources such as leaded fuels.
Additionally, California assemblymember Bill Quirk recently introduced a bill requiring all children in the state to be tested for lead to help identify where there are lead exposure clusters and assure that children who have been exposed to high lead levels will receive access to health care services for lead exposure.