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Early Childhood Education

Alarming Testing Results From State Find 1 in 4 California Preschools Have Lead Levels Above The Maximum Allowed

A person with light-tone skin fills a glass from a faucet.
Testing results in California's childcare facilities have find high levels of lead in many centers.
(Ildar Imashev/Getty Images
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The California Department of Social Services is reporting an alarming amount of lead in the state's preschools. One in four preschools have lead levels above the maximum allowed, in cities across Southern California, from Long Beach and San Pedro, to San Marino and Sherman Oaks.

The exposure to lead is particularly dangerous to children under the age of 6, which makes the numbers particularly concerning.

Dr. Ilhan Shapiro is medical affairs officer at AltaMed Health Services. He says parents need to be their own advocates for clean water for their children.

"As a parent myself, one of the things that I would suggest is to talk to the school because they will need help," he said. "This would be something that cannot be changed from one day to another."

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Effects of lead exposure

When young children are exposed to lead, it can lead to developmental and emotional problems, such as lower IQ and math scores. Here's what the state has to say:

  • Lead poisoning can harm a child’s nervous system and brain when they are still forming, causing learning and behavior problems that may last a lifetime.
  • Lead can lead to a low blood count (anemia).
  • Even small amounts of lead in the body can make it hard for children to learn, pay attention, and succeed in school.
  • Higher amounts of lead exposure can damage the nervous system, kidneys, and other major organs. Very high exposure can lead to seizures or death.

Why is there so much lead?

Shapiro says it's tied to aging infrastructure that needs to be upgraded — something parents need to advocate for with water districts.

Look up your childcare center

What questions do you have about Southern California?

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