Children who live near the former Exide Technologies battery-recycling plant in Vernon have higher levels of lead in their blood than those who live farther away, according to a report released Friday by state health officials, who said the age of the homes the children live in was also a contributing factor.
The study by the state Department of Public Health at the request of the Department of Toxic Substances Control, found that children under age 6 who lived near the plant were likely to have more lead in their blood than children in Los Angeles County overall.
According to the study, 3.58 percent of young children who live within a mile of the plant had levels of 4.5 micrograms of lead or more per deciliter of blood. Among children who lived between one and 4.5 miles of the plant, 2.41 percent had 4.5 micrograms or more, the study found.
By comparison, only 1.95 percent of children countywide had such levels of lead in their blood in 2012, state officials said.
According to DTSC, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers 5 micrograms or greater to be an indicator of significantly high lead levels requiring public health action. California's baseline, however, is 4.5 micrograms.
Although the study focused on proximity to the plant, researchers found that the age of housing was a contributing factor to lead levels, noting that homes closer to the facility tend to be older. The age of housing is significant, since lead levels in paint were not regulated until 1978.
According to the study, 3.11 percent of young children living near Exide in homes built before 1940 had elevated blood lead levels, while only 1.87 percent of children near the plant in homes built after 1940 had elevated levels.
The Exide plant permanently closed in March 2015. When Exide agreed to close the lead-acid battery recycling plant, it committed to pay $50 million for cleanup of the site and surrounding neighborhoods. Of that amount, $26 million is meant to be set aside for residential cleanup.
As of last August, Exide, which filed for bankruptcy in 2013, had paid $9 million into a trust and another $5 million was due to be paid by March 2020, according to state officials.
Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed spending $176.6 million for further testing and environmental cleanup of the area surrounding the plant. The state Senate approved the funding on Thursday. The issue will now go before the Assembly.
State officials said the funding would pay for testing of residential properties, schools, day care centers and parks within a 1.7-mile radius of the plant, and fund cleaning of as many as 2,500 properties with the highest lead levels.
Free Blood Lead Testing
DTSC encourages residents living near the former Exide facility to have their blood tested for lead. The free and confidential tests are conducted by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. To set up a free screening, call (844) 888-2290, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information regarding this program, visit www.bloodleadtesting.com/
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A copy of the Analysis of Children's Blood Lead Levels in the Area Around the Exide Site is available at www.dtsc.ca.gov/exideContact DTSC's Residents Hotline at (844) 225-3887.