SmartOakland Policy Support Letter: Re: SB 1097 (Hueso) Childhood blood lead testing – REQUEST FOR Governor SIGNATURE
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August 6, 2018
The Honorable Jerry Brown
State of California
Sacramento, CA 95814
Re: SB 1097 (Hueso) Childhood blood lead testing – REQUEST FOR SIGNATURE
Dear Governor Brown:
The undersigned organizations write to support SB 1097, which requires the California Department of Public Health to provide, on its website, county-based information regarding childhood blood lead testing outcomes, sources of lead exposure, and how those sources are removed, remediated, or abated. The bill also requires the department to provide the collected data to its Healthy Communities Data and Indicators Project so that the data might be used to plan and evaluate community health.
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 decay and contaminate otherwise potable water sources.
In addition, new sources of lead have been identified, and local officials report that children are exposed to potentially dangerous levels of lead by consuming certain imported spices and home remedies, playing with imported toys, or using foreign manufactured cosmetics or ritual items.
While many of California’s youngest children are still exposed to lead, most children who are at the highest risk of lead poisoning are not tested for lead exposure as required by law. Recent analyses of state billing and blood lead test data indicates that as many as 60 percent of the state’s 12 and 24-month old children who are most at risk of lead-poisoning do not receive blood lead screenings each year in accordance with federal and state regulations.
California must and should identify as many children as the law requires. The state should also do all it can to prevent lead exposure in the first place, and remove children from lead when it is found. However, not enough public data is available to guide communities on how to best protect kids from the neurotoxin. Public data regarding local childhood lead testing and exposure is limited, and little documentation is publicly available about causes of lead poisoning at the local level or how those lead sources are addressed.
We know that socioeconomic factors, such as poverty and lower levels of education, correlate with higher lead levels, as do environmental and housing factors. However, socioeconomic factors and lead hazards vary by community and region. In order to prevent childhood lead exposure, we need to know where the lead hazards are, what the hazards look like, and how the lead is affecting kids near it.
County childhood lead poisoning prevention programs provide biennial reports to the state about lead poisoning cases, but that information is not publicly available, and does not fully describe the counties’ child lead testing compliance or efforts to address the sources of lead poisoning.
The Department of Public Health is also statutorily required to prepare a biennial report about the effectiveness of lead poisoning case management efforts. The department does not, however, prepare such a report and only posts minimal information about childhood lead exposure rates on its website.
SB 1097 requires the department to expand the biennial reports that it must provide the public, and the bill requires the reports to include specific data about county-level childhood lead testing, exposure rates, sources of child lead poisoning, and how those sources are addressed. The bill allows the department to acquire needed information through the counties’ biennial reporting efforts.
By having readily accessible data on local childhood lead levels, lead hazards, and the effectiveness of community-level lead abatement, decision makers will be able to more effectively address – and prevent – childhood lead exposure. Enactment of SB 1097 will bring California one step closer towards addressing the ongoing environmental and racial injustice of childhood lead exposure.
We would ask that you sign SB 1097 into law.
Senior Advocate, California Governmental Affairs
Environmental Working Group
California Coalition of Welfare Rights Organizations
Lee Ann Tratten
Consumer Attorneys of California
Children’s Advocacy Institute
At University of San Diego School of Law
Director, Health Policy
Friends Committee on Legislation
Toxics Program Manager
Clean Water Action
Robert M. Gould, M.D.
San Francisco Bay Area Physicians for Social Responsibility
SmartOakland Healthy Homes
Western Center on Law and Poverty
Executive Director & Managing Attorney
The Environmental Justice Coalition for Water
Children’s Defense Fund
Vicki Alexander, MD, MPH
Interim Executive Director
Healthy Black Families, Inc.
Senior Governmental Relations Manager
Trust for Public Land
National Health Law Program
Public Health Advocate
California Public Interest Research Group
Sierra Club California