It was reported in the Los Angeles Times last week that the soil near a battery recycling plant in Vernon, California is contaminated with lead.

Health warnings have been issued and further testing is being done.

The Exide Technologies plant has been on this location since the 1920’s and recycles as many as 25,000 batteries every working day. The plant has previously caused concern because of arsenic emissions which caused elevated cancer risk in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Lead levels in soil of 80 parts per million are a red flag for further investigation. One home in Boyle Heights tested at 580 parts per million and a nearby elementary school at 95 parts per million. These levels of lead contamination are determined to not be risky for adults, but are dangerous to children and pregnant women. Children can be exposed to lead in the soil when they play outside and pregnant women from soil tracked inside or from gardening.

The local population is quite concerned–and rightly so. They wonder whether it is safe to let their kids play outside in our beautiful Southern California spring weather. Public health officials are indeed recommending that children do not play with the soil and that everyone wash their hands if they have touched the soil in the region. They also recommend only growing vegetables in raised beds with purchased topsoil.

Looking out the window today, we certainly hope that the damage done can be cleaned up and that Exide Technologies develops a plan quickly to eliminate the danger of lead poisoning for this community before spring leads to hot summer weather.