LA County Health Officials Overstate Number of Children With Lead Contamination

An error occurred in Los Angeles County that has made it difficult to track lead exposure. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health mistakenly labeled a number of blood test results as elevated and, according to Reuters, one major laboratory had been mistakenly categorizing negative blood tests as elevated for five years.

As a result of the Department’s errors, the data on the LA county’s lead contamination has led to a misstatement of elevated lead levels in LA children. While communities are relieved by the news, the miscategorized data is no less concerning considering the public health response that is necessary when children are found with elevated lead in their systems.

The incorrect data had determined a high rate of lead in children across the County, but particularly in San Marino where 17% of the tests were above the threshold of the CDC. New data, correct this time, determines the percentage of tests found above the threshold are only 1%.

The error in the data was a result of the County’s health officials misinterpreting the results of a lab test from the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. The lab had reported the tests had come back below the detection limit for lead contamination, yet the officials misinterpreted the results to mean the tests were elevated by 5 micrograms per deciliter.

While corrections have been made to the data for San Marino, the errors continue beyond the one city.

According to Reuters, “Children’s Hospital Los Angeles said it conducted around 5,000 childhood blood lead level tests from 2011 through 2015. All of these tests may have been counted as high. That could mean that almost a third of the 15,000 LA County children counted as receiving a high test did not have one.”

However, despite the errors made by health officials regarding the County’s data, lead contamination continues to be a risk for children in LA County. Therefore, parents are suggested to remain alert of old paint and tainted soil surrounding their homes and their children’s schools.

Receiving proper health care, including lab tests, is certainly a sore spot for many Americans these days as few across the country are able to afford it. Despite the high costs, however, home health care has been named one of the top 10 fastest-growing occupations by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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