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Eight East Bay neighborhoods have lead poisoning rates worse than Flint, Michigan

Meanwhile, Alameda County’s lead screening programs go largely unfunded

Workers in hazmat suits stripping old paint from a house. Caution tape in the foreground warns: “Lead Hazard.” Photo by Jamie Hooper/Shutterstock

According to Reuters, childhood lead poisoning is so rife in some California communities that it equals or surpasses levels seen in Flint, Michigan. And the Bay Area has some of the worst lead hot spots in the state.

Back in December, the news agency compiled CDC records on children’s lead levels in 21 states, with horrifying ramifications. “Flint is no aberration,” they wrote at the time.

Now an even more extensive payout of records uncovers dozens of California ZIP codes with alarming rates of childhood lead poisoning:

The data shows how lead poisoning affects even a state known for its environmental advocacy, with high rates of childhood exposure found in a swath of the Bay Area and downtown Los Angeles. And the figures show that, despite national strides in eliminating lead-based products, hazards remain in areas far from the Rust Belt or East Coast regions filled with old housing and legacy industry.

Fresno has the worst of it, but there are also eight ZIP codes in Alameda County where children tested for dangerously high levels of lead in 2012.

“Lead exposure is common in East Bay areas, including large parts of Oakland, and nearby Emeryville and Fremont,” says Reuters.

Oakland offers free assessments of lead hazards to homeowners, but city spokesperson Teresa Brown-Morris told Curbed SF that the program is out of money and that future funding is uncertain. She adds, “It’s all up in the air.”

Photo by Kim Britten/Shutterstock

Residents can still apply, but as of now the program acts as a waiting list for hopeful future assistance.

Berkeley offers educational workshops on the hazards of lead, but not testing or removal.

“We focus on confirmed cases that come to our attention,” Tanya Bustamante, Berkeley’s health services supervisor, told Curbed SF. “We don’t have any specific testing or enforcement staff that are certified.”

Bustamante adds that the city would certainly like to be testing and enforcing, but budget limits have hindered it so far.

As the East Bay Express noted in December, aging homes and industrial sites are almost certainly the culprits in the Bay Area, rather than the toxic water that poisoned Flint.

Lead poisoning may cause learning disabilities and IQ loss, cancer, anemia, infertility, and hypertension, just to name a few effects. A bill requiring lead testing for all California children is on the table in Sacramento.