Exide Technologies, an old battery-recycling plant in Vernon, closed down in 2015 after reports stated that dozens of residents living near the area were in danger of toxic chemical contamination. However, the plant still left large traces of chemicals in the soil and air after it was closed. The state tested homes a mile-and-a-half from the old battery plant, and 98 percent of them came back with high levels of lead. Surprisingly, they found high levels of lead in their soil, even as far as downtown L.A., which is five miles away from the plant.
These chemicals, such as lead, benzene, and arsenic, may cause harm to children who play around in the grass outside their houses and touch the contaminated soil. The children and the rest of their families are at risk of brain damage and even death.
However, the state may not have enough budget to clean up the toxins in all the contaminated areas. The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) for California said in a press release in July that the cleanup plan would only cater about 2,500 homes within 1.7 miles of the old battery plant within two years, as cited by the Daily Mail.
“It's not to say that we're not going to address the remaining properties,” Mohsen Nazemi, deputy director of the DTSC, said in a CBS News report.
The cleanup plan will cost the state $176 million and will also focus on schools and care centers that were exposed.
“There's not enough money to clean up 10,000 homes,” Nazemi said.
Officials warned people within the area to avoid allowing their children to play in areas of contaminated soil to prevent the risk of ingesting the harmful toxins.
“I'm a little frustrated,” Carlos Jimenez, a resident in downtown L.A. whose yard tested positive for lead, said in the CBS News report. “I just hope they come back to the rest of us and give us a chance to have our houses cleaned up as well.”
The residents called this crisis worse than the one in Flint, Michigan, where the city had a contamination problem with its water supply after they started getting water from the Flint River in 2014.
It was a temporary measure intended to save costs while the city worked on a permanent pipeline project to Lake Huron. Residents immediately complained about the odor, taste, and appearance of the water. Children living in Flint started to experience an extreme increase in lead levels in the blood. It was not until December 2015 that the mayor of Flint declared the city in a state of emergency. (Related: Flint, Michigan, lead poisoning not a problem if you own a Big Berkey water filter: See lead removal lab test results at WaterFilterLabs.com.)
High levels of lead exposure can attack the brain and central nervous system of the person who ingested it. This is especially damaging to children because their central nervous systems are still developing. It can cause developmental problems, such as a decrease in IQ, learning disabilities, and stunted growth.
Another chemical that contaminated the soil and air around homes in L.A. is benzene. Exposure to benzene causes headaches, dizziness, tremors, and skin and eye irritations. It also increases the risk of leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma if people are exposed to this chemical for long periods of time.
Arsenic, another chemical present in the area, is dangerous in its inorganic form. If swallowed, it can damage the body's digestive system. Some symptoms include stomachaches, vomiting, and diarrhea. If touched by the skin, it can cause irritations and rashes that form dark patches along the surface. Moreover, it can also cause cancer in the body if ingested long-term.
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