California Governor Jerry Brown has approved spending more than $176 million to tackle industrial pollution hazards that threaten the health of thousands of residents living near a now-shuttered battery recycling plant in southeast Los Angeles County.
According to USC News, the Governor’s spending plan will cover the testing and removal of lead and other industrial pollutants, including benzene, arsenic, and 1,3-Butadiene from homes within a 1.7-mile radius of the old Exide Technologies facility in Vernon, Calif.
The plant closed in March 2015 after state officials discovered that decades of air pollution and toxic dust spewing from the factories contaminated the soil and an estimated 10,000 homes.
The California Department of Toxic Substances Control estimates the cost to clean up the homes affected by the Exide plant’s pollution to be up to $50,000 per residence.
According to USC researchers involved in assessing the environmental pollutants, people living in the affected area are at risk of developing a number of serious and potentially deadly health problems.
Benzene, a volatile organic compound (VOC) that is released as a gas during some industrial process, including those used at the 15-acre Excide facility, can cause dizziness and fatigue and other problems in short-term exposures. Over the long-term, benzene exposure can work its way into the bones, destroying marrow and increasing the risk of developing leukemia.
Dr. Jill Johnston, an assistant professor of preventative medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, told USC News that exposure to 1,3-Butadiene, a colorless gas, can cause nausea, headache, and lower blood pressure. Chronic exposures to the chemical have been linked to increased risk of cancer.
Lead pollution, which may be the Exide plant’s biggest threat, is a well-known neurotoxin that is harmful at any level of exposure, especially to young children, unborn babies, and pregnant women.
Pregnant women who ingest high levels of lead are at increased risk of miscarriage and premature birth, while their babies may suffer from low birth weight, brain damage, kidney damage, or nervous system impairment.
Children with developing brains who are exposed to lead may develop permanent, irreversible problems with learning, emotions, and behavior. Chronic exposure to lead typically leads to death.
Decades of dust containing lead and other harmful substances that have accumulated in the neighborhoods near the Exide Technologies factory have put residents at a serious risk of health complications. Anyone who may be affected by Exide’s environmental contamination should be assessed for lead poisoning and other exposures, health officials advise.