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Can residents’ concerns re Exide’s toxins in soil be resolved?

Lead and arsenic released into the environment by battery recycling plants is a health hazard to all those living nearby such a facility.
Lead and arsenic released into the environment by battery recycling plants is a health hazard to all those living nearby such a facility.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)/Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

For many years now, it has been a legal requirement when renting or selling a residence in most states to declare that no lead has been found on the premises. Paint used in houses and apartments before 1978 often contained this highly dangerous heavy metal. As well, many plumbing pipes have been soldered using lead, as well as most electronic devices even to present. When the dust from wear and tear on the substance gets into air or water, or when it chips and is absorbed or otherwise consumed (often by small children), the effects of lead on development of the brain and central nervous system can be devastating. Smaller birth weight, failure to thrive, lower IQ and behavioral problems, and damage to various internal organs, especially kidneys and liver, are among numerous effects possible resulting from lead ingestion or exposure.

Of late there has been alarm, justifiably, over high levels of lead found in the homes around the Exide battery plant in Los Angeles. (See March 11 LA Times article,,0,6768206.story#axzz2vfpjFbSg. KTLA News video included in article.) In the community of Vernon, CA, this dangerous contaminant has shown up in soil samples in houses and a preschool and other schools near Exide Technologies, and the local citizens are expressing their concerns. There have been public demonstrations, meetings where residents were able to communicate with state and local officials, and the media. The California Department of Toxic Substances Control has issued warnings to those in the areas of Vernon, Boyle Heights, and Maywood, all of which are showing higher levels of lead than are considered safe. They are supposedly worried about the effects, above all, on pregnant women and small children, who are most at risk.

Certainly there are valid reasons to take immediate action when such a potentially damaging contaminant is found in the soil where people grow vegetables and fruit for their consumption. People of lower incomes, especially, are more reliant on home gardens. If they can’t count on this aid to their diet, above all when expecting children or trying to feed youngsters, this adds to their burden. As well, the soil does, let’s face it, erode and contaminate the air we breathe with whatever is in it. Add to this the effect of lead leaching out into ground water, especially when California is experiencing a serious drought already, and the situation seems to be spiraling into a much worse condition.

Exide Technologies, of course, is trying to cover its corporate posterior, as most polluters do. They plead for more time to get their act together, although their track record for contamination is not so innocent, nor is this a recent development. Last year they were also pinpointed by the South Coast Air Quality Management District for their release of high levels of arsenic into the environment. Arsenic is one of the more deadly poisons, being a known carcinogen as well.

Is the state government going to sit by and let this battery recycling firm skate around the findings of its disastrous practices? Local authorities and government officials have been, at least verbally, showing signs of siding with the outraged residents. However, we all know how that frequently works out: many promises are made to take action and nothing gets done. Lawsuits get filed and take ages to get to court. In the meantime, people are poisoned, children are afflicted, the soil, air and water don’t get any healthier, either. All this time the source of the contamination rolls along on its merry way, continuing to spew out its venom.

The best advice in the current crisis is to relocate, but with today’s costs of housing and rentals, versus the low income of many families and individuals, this is not always a practical solution. For those attempting to sell a house in such an area, good luck with that—who, other than a landlord who would not care about the problems involved, would purchase a building in a toxic area? The current laws only require that a home not contain any lead in the premises itself, and mention nothing about the soil or surrounding area. People desperate for a dwelling will not always inquire about such matters when signing a lease.

Corporations are considered persons by the law. That doesn’t, unfortunately, mean they have any soul or conscience, as is evident by the actions of those that run companies like Exide Technologies .

For more information on the effects of lead contamination, and the laws concerning this matter, see:

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