VERNON (CBSLA.com) — Children who live near the former Exide Technologies battery-recycling plant in Vernon have higher levels of lead in their blood than those who live a greater distance away, according to a report released Friday.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) analysis, which officials say was conducted at the request of the California Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), also showed that children under age 6 living in the area near the Exide facility were more likely to have higher blood lead levels than children in Los Angeles County overall.

According to the study (PDF), over 3.5 percent of young children who live within a mile of the plant had levels of 4.5 micrograms of lead or more per deciliter of blood, compared with 2.41 percent of children who lived between one and 4.5 miles from the plant.

By comparison, just under two percent of children countywide had such levels of lead in their blood in 2012, state officials said.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: Exide Plant In Vernon

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers 5 micrograms or greater to be an indicator of significantly high lead
levels requiring public health action, according to state health officials. California’s baseline, however, is 4.5 micrograms.

The study “is an important component of our understanding of the public health impacts from lead in the vicinity of the Exide facility,” said
DTSC’s Director Barbara Lee. “They pulled together a tremendous amount of data and provided valuable insights.”

Officials say the age of homes located near the plant was also a contributing factor to lead levels, since homes closer to the facility tend to be older. The age of housing is significant, since lead levels in paint were not regulated until 1978.

More than three percent of young children living near Exide in homes built before 1940 showed elevated blood lead levels, while the number of children with elevated levels living in homes built after 1940 was more than one percent less, officials said.

The Exide plant permanently closed in March 2015.

The company has committed to paying $50 million for cleanup of the site and surrounding neighborhoods, with just over half expected to go towards funding residential cleanup efforts.

As of last August, Exide, which filed for bankruptcy in 2013, had paid $9 million into a trust and another $5 million was due to be paid by March
2020, according to state officials.

Officials are encouraging residents living near the former Exide facility to have their blood tested for lead.

Click here or call (844) 888-2290 for more information on the free and confidential tests conducted by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

(©2016 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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