May 14, 2018
Decades of pollution from Exide Technology’s battery recycling plant has deposited lead, arsenic and other dangerous contaminants across an area spanning 10,000 homes, in Vernon, southeast L.A. County. The state of California says tests show more than 7,500 homes in this working class town exceed California’s lead safety levels for residential soil.
Lead is a toxic material and a very potent neurotoxin. It can damage kidneys, the blood, and the nervous system, which can progress to coma, convulsions and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is no safe level of lead exposure. Even tiny amounts of lead poisoning can cause permanent developmental and behavioral problems, including learning disabilities and lower IQs. Infants and young children are the most affected by lead exposure because their growing bodies are more prone to harm. And, children’s bodies also absorb lead more easily than adults’ bodies.
A California health department analysis found nearly 300 children younger than 6, living near Exide’s plant, who had elevated blood lead levels in 2012.
The state plans to clean 2,500 homes that are most polluted. But it does not have any plans to clean the remaining 5,000 homes.
California allocated close to 180 million dollars in taxpayer funds for this clean-up. But, three years after Exide shut down the Vernon plant, just 270 homes have been cleaned. Most of the allocated money was not spent. The money is there, but the state simply did not carry out the cleaning.