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There’s Lead in the Baby Teeth of Children Living Near the Southeast L.A. Exide Battery Plant

10:09 AM PDT on May 7, 2019

    [dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]here's lead in the baby teeth of children living near the Exide facility in Vernon, providing further evidence that the now-closed recycled car battery plant is responsible for contaminating the air in and around parts of Southeast Los Angeles.

    The findings came in a study released this week by USC researchers. “We found the higher the level of lead in the soil, the higher the amount of lead in baby teeth,” one of the study's authors, assistant professor Jill Johnston, told USC News. “There’s no safe level of lead; it’s a potent neurotoxin.”

    Exide closed in March of 2015 as part of a legal settlement, but not before it released 3,500 tons of lead – contaminating air, soil, and groundwater in Vernon, Boyle Heights, Commerce, Maywood, Huntington Park, Bell, and parts of East L.A. Hundreds of thousands of people have been impacted by the contamination and criticize the slow efforts to clean up the soil around these homes.

    Credit: USC

    The contamination continues to plague Southeast and East L.A. residents, the report found. “Higher lead in teeth means higher lead in the brain, kidney and bones,” Johnston said.

    Researchers working for USC's Keck School of Medicine studied the teeth of 43 children living in the affected areas using laser technology. The teeth of children in Boyle Heights and East L.A. showed the highest levels of lead. High levels were also found in Maywood, Huntington Park and Commerce. Boyle Heights and East L.A. sit north and north east of the toxic winds which could attribute to the higher levels, according to the report.

    "In some cases, higher exposure occurred while the baby was still in the womb, meaning that the mother’s exposure to lead – such as from dust tracked inside on the feet of people and pets – was transmitted to her unborn child," USC reported.

    “Testing women for lead during pregnancy, or even earlier, as they enter child-bearing age, may be needed to decrease lead exposure to their future offspring," according to Johnston.

    Read the full report here.

    RELATED: ‘People Are Still Living in Toxic Homes’ ~ County Allocates $5.2 Million to Continue Exide Cleanup

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