Calif. Lawmakers Send Gov. Brown Sweeping Blueprint to Protect Children and Workers from Lead Exposure

From Preschool to the Workplace, Proposals Would Safeguard Millions from Potent Neurotoxin
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For Immediate Release: 
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

SACRAMENTO, Calif. With overwhelming bipartisan support, state lawmakers have sent Gov. Jerry Brown a suite of landmark proposals to safeguard Californians, from preschool to the workplace, from lead.

The five bills were sponsored or cosponsored by the Environmental Working Group. All but one passed both the California Assembly and Senate with no opposition, as legislators moved to reverse decades of the state’s failure to protect children and adults from exposure to the dangerous neurotoxin.

If Brown signs the bills, licensed daycare centers would be required to test their tap water for lead, all young children covered by the state’s Medi-Cal health plan would get their blood tested for lead, and health officials would automatically refer cases of high blood lead levels in workers to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal-OSHA.

“Legislators came together to send as strong message that no one in California, especially our youngest and most vulnerable, should be exposed to lead,” said Bill Allayaud, EWG’s California director of government affairs.

“There is no safe level of lead for children,” Allayaud said. “It can cause serious and lifelong neurological deficits that are impossible to reverse, which is why it’s imperative the state does everything possible to mitigate exposure at an early age. At the same time, too many workers have been harmed by lead exposure because of lax state enforcement. We urge the governor to sign these bills and begin a new era in addressing a serious public health problem which is entirely preventable.”

EWG-sponsored childhood lead bills include:

  • AB 2370, by Assemblymember Chris Holden, requires licensed child care centers to test their tap water for lead contamination. If high lead levels are found, the centers must find an alternate source of safe drinking water. The centers must also provide parents with information about lead risks and testing. 
  • AB 2122, by Assemblymember Eloise Reyes requires the Department of Health Care Services, or DHCS, to ensure that Medi-Cal managed healthcare plans, and the plans’ providers, test children for blood lead levels in accordance with state and federal standards.
  • SB 1041, by State Sen. Connie Leyva, requires the Department of Public Health to publicly report the rates of blood lead testing among children enrolled, and not enrolled, in Medi-Cal, and to inform doctors about state lead testing standards.
  • SB 1097, by State Sen. Ben Hueso, requires the Department of Public Health to make public reports on county-level childhood lead testing, exposure rates, the local sources of lead related to individual lead-poisoning cases, and if those sources have been removed or abated.  
  • AB 2963, by Assemblymember Ash Kalra, mandates that when the Department of Public Health receives a report of high lead levels in the blood of workers, they must refer that case to Cal-OSHA, who would then open an investigation within three days and complete it within six months.

Comments from the authors of the EWG-sponsored legislation:

“AB 2370 helps keep our youngest children safe by ensuring they are not ingesting lead through the water they drink while at childcare centers,” said Assembymember Holden. “We know that even minute amounts of lead in the bodies of very young children causes irreversible harm to their central nervous system. I look forward to working on bills to keep our children and communities healthy.”

“I am proud to have authored AB 2122, a bill which creates mechanisms to ensure that California’s children are finally tested for lead in their blood,” said Assemblymember Gómez Reyes.  “We can’t ignore the danger of lead exposure in children as its effects have long-lasting, dire consequences on their health and brain development.  Our children deserve nothing less than our full efforts to protect them and their futures.”

“It is imperative that children who have been exposed to lead are afforded the proper case management,” said Senator Ben Hueso. “SB 1097 will help California better understand childhood lead levels, lead hazards, and the effectiveness of lead abatement.”

“As SB 1041 passed the legislature without a single ‘No’ vote, I am optimistic that Gov. Brown will sign this bill to ensure that parents have the necessary information to protect their kids from dangerous lead exposure,” said Senator Leyva. “I appreciate the Environmental Working Group’s strong support of this legislation and look forward to continue working with them so that we can keep our children, families and communities safe from lead.”

“Today, we are one step closer to adopting an important piece of legislation that would improve how public health officials are made aware of, and handle cases of, lead poisoning among workers in California,” said Assemblymember Kalra. “Without this important legislation, countless numbers of employees will remain exposed to lead at their jobs, making them vulnerable to neurological damage and heart disease. AB 2963 will help to ensure proper oversight and that timely action is taken by our state agencies when elevated levels of lead are reported.”