SmartOakland Support Letter w/ CA GTLO Coalition - Request Governor Brown Signature for SB 1041 (Leyva) -- Childhood lead testing

Download a PDF of the original letter here

August 31, 2018
Honorable Jerry Brown, Governor
State of California
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re: SB 1041 (Leyva) -- Childhood lead testing – Request for signature

Dear Governor Brown:

The undersigned organizations write to ask that you sign SB 1041 into law.  SB 1041, by Senator Connie Leyva, requires the California Department of Public Health to notify medical providers about, and the providers to inform parents about, state and federal child lead-testing requirements.  The bill also requires the department to publicly report the rates of blood lead testing among children enrolled, and not enrolled, in Medi-Cal.

As you know, lead is a severe neurotoxin that even in small doses can lower a child’s IQ and cause behavior and learning disorders. Since the 1970s, federal and state policies banning the use of lead in gasoline and paint have resulted in drastic reductions in childhood lead exposure. However, legacy lead – lead remaining in paint, plumbing, contaminated soil, and faucets – continues to endanger children who encounter this known neurotoxin in their homes and other environments.  As housing and other types of building infrastructure ages, childhood lead exposure risks may increase.  Paint peels, lead leeches into soil, and leaded pipes and fixtures decay and contaminate otherwise potable water sources.   

In addition, new sources of lead have been identified, and local officials report that children are frequently exposed to potentially dangerous levels of lead by consuming certain imported spices, playing with imported toys, or using foreign manufactured cosmetics or ritual items. Some children and families are also inadvertently exposed to lead through use of non-prescription home remedies.  

All children can be exposed to lead, but the Department of Public Health states that the vast majority -- 88 percent -- of lead-poisoned kids are enrolled in Medi-Cal, the state’s health care plan for low-income families.  Low-income kids are more apt to be lead-poisoned because they are more likely to live in older housing with lead paint, and be malnourished, which causes them to absorb lead faster.  If not stopped, a child’s ongoing exposure to lead will continue to harm their nervous system.

Because lead exposure happens silently, and disproportionately affects low income kids, state and federal regulations require all Medi-Cal toddlers to receive blood lead tests when they are one and two years old. Unfortunately, many of these children are not tested as required.  Recent analyses of state data have found that an estimated one-half to three-fourths of the state’s 12 and 24-month old children who are enrolled in Medi-Cal do not receive blood lead screenings each year in accordance with federal and state regulations.  

These findings support another analysis, published last year in the peer-reviewed journal Pediatrics.  This analysis found that more than 63 percent of California’s children with elevated blood lead levels above 10 mcg/dL are not identified.

California must and should identify as many children as the law requires.   At the minimum, the Department of Public Health and its Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program should be required to ensure providers and parents are informed of lead exposure risks and child blood lead testing requirements.  The department should also publicly report on the state’s progress in testing Medi-Cal enrolled toddlers, as well as all other children who are at risk of lead exposure.

Socioeconomic factors, such as poverty and lower levels of education, correlate with higher lead levels, as do environmental and housing factors.  According to Harvard sociologist Robert Sampson's theory, titled the "ecology of toxic inequality," higher lead levels in the blood are often directly tied to racial and ethnic segregation in housing.  Professor Sampson states that the racially disparate impact of lead exposure is "how inequality literally gets into the body and under the skin." 

By educating parents and providers, and, thereby, raising awareness of lead exposure and the need to lead test vulnerable children, SB 1041 will take one step towards addressing this ongoing environmental and racial injustice.

Please sign this important measure into law.  Thank you.


Daphne Macklin
California Coalition of Welfare Rights Organizations

Susan Little
Senior Advocate, California Governmental Affairs
Environmental Working Group

Ed Howard
Senior Counsel
Children’s Advocacy Institute

Michael Odeh
Director of Health Policy
Children Now   

Jim Lindburg                                                             
Legislative Director
Friends Committee on                            

Miriam Rotkin-Ellman
Senior Scientist
Health and Environment Program
Natural Resources Defense Council      

Andria Ventura
Toxics Program Manager
Clean Water Action   

Stephanie Hayden
Executive Director, Co-Founder
SmartOakland (
Smart City Healthy Homes & Environmental Hazards Living Data Utility
Oakland, CA

Jena Price
Legislative Affairs Manager
California League of Conservation Voters

Linda Nguy
Policy Advocate
Western Center on Law and Poverty

Leslie Mintz Tamminen
Seventh Generation Advisors

Colin Bailey
Executive Director & Managing Attorney
The Environmental Justice Coalition for Water

Shimca Gaskins
Executive Director
Children’s Defense Fund-California

Vicki Alexander, MD, MPH
Interim Executive Director
Healthy Black Families, Inc.
Berkeley, CA 

Ed Moreno
Policy Advocate
Sierra Club California

Laura Deehan
Public Health Advocate
California Public Interest Research Group

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