Bill to Improve Lead Testing in Children is Signed into Law

Thursday, October 5, 2017

SACRAMENTO – Assembly Bill (AB) 1316, by Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) and Assemblymember Christina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), to improve California’s program for testing children who may have been exposed to lead poisoning, has been signed into law.


Under current guidelines, doctors are only required to ask parents if children live, or spend a majority of their time, in pre-1978 homes. However, data released by the Environmental Working Group in September found that a third of young California children at risk for lead poisoning are not being tested.


“The current screening process is outdated and leaves many children vulnerable to lead poisoning. Legacy lead in plumbing, contaminated soil and water sources means that children are still exposed to this toxic metal,” explained Assemblymember Quirk. “For the first time, physicians will be required to consider other critical factors that can expose a child to lead,” he concluded.  


AB 1316 requires the California Department of Public Health, in consultation with medical experts, environmental experts, and others, to consider other significant environmental risk factors that could expose a child to lead contamination – including, but not limited to, a child's proximity to a former lead or steel smelter or an industrial facility that historically emitted or currently emits lead and a child's proximity to a freeway or heavily travelled roadway.


“Far too many kids have been harmed by lead and, for decades, the state has failed to meet its responsibility to identify, test, and if needed, treat them,” said Susan Little, a government affairs advocate for the Environmental Working Group, the bill’s sponsor. "Governor Brown's action brings us a long step closer to stronger testing requirements and a successful state program that protects our most vulnerable kids -- toddlers -- from lead exposure."


“There is no safe exposure to lead,” said Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, Chair of the Natural Resources Committee.  “This is especially important in my district where thousands of families have been severely impacted by the lead poisoning of Exide. The data shows lead exposure affects a child's ability to reach their full potential and poisoning's disproportionately effect communities of color. Expanding testing to all children in the state will ensure no child falls through the cracks because of their race, income, or the zip code they live in.”


“This is a huge victory for our children. As a scientist, father, assemblymember, and now grandfather, I feel I have a personal responsibility to do everything I can to protect children from environmental dangers that can impact their ability to grow and thrive. Recently, a constituent reached out to me and told me the story of her brother being exposed to lead from contaminated soil in the playground. It’s these scenarios that we currently do not have the capability to identify and address. I want to thank my joint author, Assemblymember Garcia, and the many supporters that helped move this bill and draw attention to this important issue,” said Assemblymember Quirk upon learning his bill was signed.


AB 1316 goes into effect January 1, 2018, and requires regulations to be completed by July 1, 2019.