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California lags in testing toddlers for lead exposure

By in Press Enterprise on September 23, 2017

By news service reports

By Elizabeth Aguilera, CALmatters

A third of young California children at risk for lead poisoning are not being tested despite state and federal laws that require it, according to a new study—a problem at least partly addressed by legislation now on the governor’s desk.

Researchers using data from the state Department of Public Health found that 160,000 children 1 and 2 years old who needed testing never received it. That’s a 34 percent failure rate, the study says.

“Our most vulnerable kids, the ones that are the most lead-poisoned, are not getting tested,” said Susan Little, who led the study for the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization that crossed the state’s testing reports with census figures. “The state is failing its mandate.”

The Department of Public Health oversees the Lead Poisoning and Prevention Program and typically contracts with counties to run testing, educational and prevention programs. The data used for the study are from 2013, the latest the state has.

A department spokesman did not answer questions about the study, saying officials needed more time to review and respond to them.

The study estimates that San Luis Obispo County is failing to test 64 percent of its at-risk 1- and 2-year-olds.
“We take lead poisoning prevention seriously and are looking into this report,” said a statement from the county’s Department of Public Health. “We have concerns about the methodology as it relates to S.L.O. County.”

Several other counties were contacted for comment but did not respond.

Lead is a neurotoxin that can cause brain damage and developmental and learning disabilities. The federal Centers for Disease Control has determined there is no safe level of the metal in the body. The issue has been the subject of headlines since the Flint, Michigan, water crisis was revealed in 2015. Reports last year by Reuters identified dozens of “hot” zip codes […]    

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