Lead poisoning in California's kids: Antonio's story

While California's lead poisoning cases have declined, especially over the last two decades, children’s advocates say the most vulnerable children are still at risk.

For three-year-old Antonio, who suffered hearing loss due to ingesting lead paint as a baby, he requires a team of experts to help him and his father navigate the myriad health, housing and other county systems.

Despite his setbacks, Antonio is fortunate to live in Alameda County, which has the resources to handle a complex case like his.

When Antonio was diagnosed with high lead levels, Alameda County stepped in to help find him and his father a new place to live. Today, they live in an apartment that is free of lead paint.

Alameda County can help Antonio in large part because its Lead Poisoning Prevention Program integrates the public health, environmental health and housing departments.

Property owners of houses built before 1978 pay the county a $10 annual fee to respond to lead hazards. It’s one of the only assessments of its kind in California. 

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Lauren M. Whaley

Freelance journalist Lauren M. Whaley is a photographer, radio producer and print reporter specializing in topics related to mental illness, reproductive health care and health disparities. She is also a childbirth photographer.This year, She is working on a series about how low-income parents access care for perinatal mental illnesses. The project is funded in part by the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism.She was a 2016-17 Knight Science Journalism Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology.Her work has been recognized by the Association of Health Care Journalists, the Scripps Howard Foundation and the Public Radio Exchange (PRX) STEM story project. She has contributed radio, video, photography and written stories to KQED Public Radio, Southern California Public Radio, the San Jose Mercury News, the New York Times and other media outlets. For six years, she worked as the Center for Health Reporting's multimedia journalist. She is a past president of the national organizationJournalism and Women Symposium (JAWS) and spent her early 20s leading canoe expeditions for young women, including a solo-led 45-trip in the Canadian Arctic. She is based in Los Angeles.

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