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Thousands Of San Diego Kids Test Positive For Lead

Household items that tested positive for lead at the San Diego County Health ...

Photo by Ebone Monet

Above: Household items that tested positive for lead at the San Diego County Health Department, Jan. 2020.

California auditors recommend a change to state law, following a report on Childhood Lead Levels. The audit found millions of Children in Medi-Cal Have not received required testing for lead poisoning.

The audit of the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) was directed by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. State law mandates that children enrolled in Medi-Cal receive tests for elevated lead levels at one and two years old.

The report found that from 2009 to 2017, more than 1.4 million of the 2.9 million one- and two-year-old children enrolled in Medi-Cal did not receive any of the required tests.

The CDC says children younger than three years old are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning. Lead is highly damaging when absorbed into the body. It can cause brain-damaged and delayed development.

Reported by Ebone Monet , Video by Matthew Bowler

Karee Hopkins is the coordinator of San Diego County’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. She explains that a lead test is the only way to know if your child has lead poisoning.

“One of the reasons it's a big deal is that lead poisoning has no symptoms. So the only way to know if a child has lead poisoning is to get the blood lead test from the doctor. At the lower levels, it can have problems with learning, with development, with paying attention in school later on. As it progresses higher can have problems with the kidneys, with the brain, with seizures and things like that,” said Hopkins.

In San Diego County numbers show more than 3,000 kids had lead poisoning. This number was second only to Los Angeles.

Hopkins says there are several factors for the numbers being so high in San Diego.

“We get a lot of refugees coming from other countries that can have elevated lead levels, as well as frequent travel to and from Mexico with our population, could have us have higher lead levels in our children than in other parts of the county,” said Hopkins.

Hopkins adds that environments can also play a role.

"So we might see that in some of the low-income populations, the homes might have chipped or cracked or peeling paint, which could pose a lead hazard if there was lead present in that we also risks can be children that use our families, that use home remedies for different medications or spices from other countries or frequent travel outside of the country or children that are coming from another country such as refugees, Hopkins said.

The audit also found DHCS failed to make sure children were tested CDPH failed to focus on addressing lead hazards. Auditors recommended that legislators amend state laws to require labs to submit contact information along with children’s lead test results.

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