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Lead Poisoning Higher Than Flint In Certain Parts Of L.A. County

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A young girl getting tested for lead poisoning. (Photo by Brett Carlsen / Stringer via Getty Images)
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Tests from 2011-2015 show 5-15% of young children have elevated levels of lead in their blood across varying sections of Los Angeles county, according to a report byReuters. The afflicted neighborhoods range in economic status and location. San Marino, an affluent community south of Pasadena, tested at 17% of children with elevated levels of lead in their blood. Sections of Rosemead tested at 16% of children, and neighborhoods around downtown and South L.A. tested around 10% of children. The investigation is a part of Reuters' coverage of lead poisoning around the nation, demonstrating how Flint, Michigan, is indicative of a larger crisis.

Reuters cites paint in old homes and possibly contaminated food imports as the likeliest sources of lead. Most homes in L.A. County were built before 1960, and lead wasn't banned from house paint until 1978. The County has certain lead-prevention programs already in place, but it hasn't included the wide-range testing necessary to understand the extent of lead poisoning in the area. Linda Kite, executive director at L.A.-based Healthy Homes Collaborative, told Reuters that “the biggest problem we have is medical apathy."

In South L.A., renters often avoid home inspection out of fear of eviction, often leaving families to live in lead-contaminated homes. Many children with risk factors around the County also have remained untested. The most recent proposed EPA budget would cut funding for lead-prevention programs.

South L.A. has a long history with lead poisoning, considering the shuttered Exide battery plant that poisoned almost all homes and schools in its vicinity. Governor Jerry Brown had previously pledged $176 million to clean up the lead poisoning from the plant.

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Reuters' new findings don't come from a specific bout of lead contamination, however, so the County will need to take a different approach in tackling the high level of poisoning in the area.

LAist reached out to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health but has yet to receive comment by time of publication.