VERNON ( — Residents who live near a Vernon battery recycling plant are being offered free blood testing to detect possible lead poisoning, according to reports.

Officials with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health made the announcement in the wake of increased fears over reported arsenic and lead leaks from the Exide Technologies facility at 2700 South Indiana Street, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The testing, which is likely to begin next month, will be paid for by Exide, according to the Times. Additional dust and soil testing has also been ordered for October.

State regulators in April forced the plant to temporarily shut down after an emergency order citing air and ground pollution violations was issued and the approximately 110,000 residents living in Boyle Heights, Maywood and Huntington Park were warned they may have been exposed to dangerous levels of the chemicals.

Exide Technologies – which was operated for decades on a temporary permit before being deemed a public health hazard by the California Department of Toxic Substance Control – was allowed to reopen in June.

Lead dust had been detected on rooftops and in streets near the plant, the Times reported.

Dr. James Dahlgren, an internist who specializes in environmental medicine and toxicology, said while it’s still unclear if any residents have been adversely affected, the plant could pose a potential health risk.

“The hazard of non-cancer and cancer risks are exceedingly high for miles and miles around the plant,” Dahlgren said. “A spec of dirt can contain enough [chemicals] to be harmful. That is a problem.”

Health authorities said they are not testing people for high levels of arsenic – a known carcinogen – because such tests do
not provide clear-cut answers, according to the Times.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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