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Exide neighbors can now get blood tests for lead

State officials shut down operations at Exide Technologies in Vernon, Calif. in April due to toxic air pollution that may pose health risks to members of the surrounding community. The plant is now open again.
Mae Ryan/KPCC
The Exide Technologies battery recycling plant in Vernon.

Beginning Monday, neighbors of Vernon’s troubled Exide battery recycling plant can get their blood tested for lead. The tests will be available through the end of September.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is making the free tests available to roughly 30,000 residents of the area surrounding the plant, including parts of East Los Angeles, Commerce, Bell, Maywood and Huntington Park.

The Vernon battery recycler has been found on several occasions to be emitting lead above allowable levels, most recently on March 28. Earlier last month, toxics regulators said the soil on dozens of properties near the plant had been found to contain elevated lead concentrations.

County officials say residents interested in having their blood tested for lead can go to one of a dozen laboratories run by Quest Diagnostics within several miles of the plant.

Those who want a blood test must first call (844) 888-2290. The county will then mail them a form, which they will need to bring to a lab when they have their blood drawn.

County officials say they will notify residents of their test results within about three weeks. Lead exposure is most dangerous to children, though county officials say both children and adults can have their blood tested.

RELATED: Everything you need to know about lead battery recycling in L.A.

County officials say they will be on the lookout for lead concentrations above 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood. That’s the level at which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends intervening to protect a child’s health.

If a test indicates unsafe levels, county officials say they will send an inspector and a public health nurse to identify the source of lead in the person’s home and get rid of it. If necessary, they’ll also arrange treatment for children found to have dangerously high levels. 

Lead poisoning in children is known to impair cognitive development and lower IQ. Health officials say the most common sources of lead in homes are contaminated soil, lead-based paint, and lead dust that settles on floors, toys or other objects that children put in their mouths.

In the areas near Exide, county officials say contamination from the plant may be a contributor, though the blood tests themselves can only indicate a presence of lead, not where it came from.