No level of lead in the body is safe, and lead can be especially harmful to the developing brain of a child. Small amounts of lead can build up in the body and cause lifelong learning and behavior problems. Higher amounts of lead exposure can damage the nervous system, kidneys, and other major organs, and very high exposure can lead to seizures or death.
In 2013, of those children tested for lead poisoning, 9,408 children in California under six years old had elevated blood lead levels. However a recent analysis from Tracking California found that only 37% of children with elevated blood lead levels are identified in the state through blood lead testing. Therefore the numbers of children affected by lead poisoning are expected to be significantly higher, and in 2010 an estimated 110,000 children in California had detectable blood lead levels.
Young children are at greatest risk of lead exposure, and there are many sources of potential exposure for children but the most widespread is lead-based paint that was used before 1978. Those at highest risk of lead poisoning therefore include children living in older homes, which may have peeling or chipped paint. Communities most impacted by childhood lead poisoning include low-income families, some recent immigrant populations, and families living in older and poorly maintained rental properties.
To track childhood lead poisoning in California residents we display the number of cases of children with elevated blood lead levels. We receive this data from the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, who collects this data from providers across California who are required to reported all laboratory results of blood lead levels.