The Exide Technologies plant in Vernon. (Photo/Chris Richard)
By Chris Richard
Tests of homes and schools near a battery recycling plant east of Los Angeles have detected elevated lead levels, prompting state officials Monday to caution the public against exposure and to order expanded testing.
Both neighborhoods surveyed exceeded the state’s “health screening level” for lead of 80 parts per million. One home topped 580 parts per million, according to a testing report.
Residents are cautioned to keep children away from bare soil and to wash hands thoroughly.
The state Department of Toxic Substances Control has given Exide Technologies until March 21 to develop a plan for additional testing of the 39 homes and two schools included in the original study, as well as a wider area.
This announcement follows testing last month in Boyle Heights and Maywood, just east of downtown Los Angeles. It marks the DTSC’s first discovery of widespread ground contamination in residential areas near Exide’s plant in Vernon. Continue reading
Natasha Smith, 37, plays with her children at her grandfather’s home in Huntington Beach. A unique program allowed Smith to live with her two youngest children while she served a four-year prison sentence. (Susan Valot/KQED)
Editor’s Note: In the past three years, more than 250 California inmates gave birth. Natasha Smith had her youngest daughter, Lydia, while at Valley State Prison in Chowchilla. The mother of four was serving time for drug possession and grand theft. This month, as part of our ongoing health series, Vital Signs, we’re bringing you personal stories of health care behind bars. Smith talks about reuniting with her baby — seven years ago — in a program that lets mothers serve their time outside of prison. There were once several such programs in the state. Now, only one Southern California facility remains. Reporter: Susan Valot
By Natasha Smith
I had a normal delivery, a vaginal delivery, so I got 48 hours. And then at the end of the 48 hours, I had to either arrange for someone to come pick up my child or she would go into the [foster care] system. So, I actually had Lydia’s father’s mother come and pick up the baby. And I didn’t really know her. It was very emotional handing over your baby to somebody you never even met.
You just kind of shut yourself down because it’s too hard to deal with: “Where’s my baby?” You just had a baby and your breasts are leaking. I mean, you’re lactating and everything else but there’s no baby. Continue reading
California’s kids are overexposed to ads for alcohol, tobacco and junk food. That’s according to a new survey from public health departments throughout the state. They sent hundreds of teens and young adults to thousands of corner stores throughout the state to record what kinds of products and advertising they find.
Twenty-two year old Luisa Sicairos saw shelves lined with products like marshmallow-flavored vodka, fried chips, and plenty of sugary drinks in her neighborhood in San Francisco. She says the young, slim models that appear in ads next to these products and on the labels send a mixed message.
“It’s still bombarding us with all this stuff on how we should look, and then they’re saying, oh, but you should be drinking soda,” she says. Continue reading
The red dots mark a school or child care facility where the vaccine opt-out rate is above 9.9 percent. The statewide average is 3 percent. (Contra Costa Health Department)
In response to the troubling number of children whose parents opt out of vaccines for them, Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) has published an interactive online map of vaccine rates for schools and licensed child-care facilities with at least 15 children at each site across the county.
“There’s not much wiggle room. We need about 90 percent of our community to be immune.”
The screen shot above shows the map. When you visit the site you can click on any of the dots, and a box appears to show you the name of the school, its address and rate of “personal belief exemptions.” While state law requires that every child be fully vaccinated to enter kindergarten, parents can opt out by filing a personal belief exemption (PBE), a signed statement that vaccines are against a parent’s beliefs.
Paul Leung, immunization program manager for Contra Costa Public Health, said the goal of producing the map was to increases awareness. “Many community members may not realize this dangerous, disturbing trend of parents choosing to skip vaccines for their children,” he said. “It not only puts these kids at greater risk of serious, dangerous diseases like measles and polio,” but it also puts others at risk, he said, including those who cannot be vaccinated, such as babies, and children or adults too sick to be vaccinated. Continue reading
By Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News
In an effort to reduce California’s backlog of health and safety complaints at nursing homes, Los Angeles County public health officials told its inspectors to close cases without fully investigating them, according to internal documents and interviews.
The effort known as the “Complaint Workload Clean Up Project” has been going on since at least the summer of 2012, according to internal memoranda sent by email to managers and inspectors by county Department of Public Health supervisors.
Nearly one-third of the 1,286 nursing homes in the state are in L.A. County.
State and federal officials, who contract with Los Angeles County to inspect nursing homes on their behalf, said they are now investigating the matter. Contacted by a reporter, the California Department of Public Health issued a statement Sunday saying it did not approve the practice and has ordered Los Angeles County officials to “immediately discontinue” it. The county’s approach conflicts with the policies and protocols of the California Department of Public Health, spokesman Anita Gore said in the statement. Continue reading
John Buckingham, 62, a homeless Vietnam veteran, stands outside of a San Francisco grocery store. He lives on the streets and is fighting cancer. (Nick Arce/KQED)
Editor’s Note: For the nearly three million Americans who served in Vietnam, more likely than death in combat was a post-war life on the street. On a single night in 2013, more than 15,000 homeless Californians were veterans, many of whom served in Vietnam. As part of our ongoing health series called Vital Signs, we’re spending the month hearing from homeless Californians. John Buckingham is a 62-year-old homeless Vietnam vet living with cancer on the streets of San Francisco. He talks to us about his battle with illness. Reporter: Nick Arce
By John Buckingham
You know, I can be walking and all of a sudden I’ll get this real heavy pain in my body. I mean, like an earthquake hitting the ground and my whole body shakes. And then, all of sudden, I won’t feel so hot. I’ll feel like these cold and hot flashes. And I’ll see things.
It’s all because of the war. Because of Agent Orange.
Jeff Ritterman, Richmond City Council member who introduced Richmond’s soda tax, campaigns for its passage in August, 2012. (Mina Kim/KQED)
In 2012, voters in the California cities of Richmond and El Monte soundly defeated proposed taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages. The ballot measures were widely covered by local, state and national press. Now, 15 months later comes an analysis of that coverage, a look at what themes were covered on both sides.
To be clear, the analysis comes not from a journalism school, but from the Berkeley Media Studies Group, a public health advocacy organization. BMSG looked at more than 200 news stories and opinion pieces — with nearly two-thirds of the coverage focused on Richmond.
Richmond and El Monte proposed similar taxes — a penny per ounce on sugar-sweetened beverages — but for different reasons. In Richmond, the tax was placed on the ballot as a public health measure, to fight childhood obesity. El Monte (Los Angeles County) was facing bankruptcy and saw a soda tax as way to bolster funds for city services. “One of the key takeaways that we saw had to do a lot with how the opposition campaigns differed, based on the unique character of each of the cities that we studied,” said Pam Mejia, lead author of the study. Continue reading
For the past two years, Kelly Hall, 42, has been homeless, living on the streets of San Francisco with her 7-year-old dog, Olivia. Hall says Olivia is her sole source of emotional support. (Credit: Mark Rogers Photography)
Editor’s Note: The unconditional love of a pet can help people facing some of life’s toughest challenges. After losing her job five years ago, Kelly Hall found herself homeless. She turned to her dog, Olivia, for comfort. Hall says her first night sleeping on the streets was “terrifying”– she was afraid for her safety and worried about surviving the cold. Pets can benefit the mental health of the homeless but keeping these animals healthy can also be a challenge.
As part of our ongoing health series called Vital Signs, we’re spending the month hearing stories from homeless Californians. We meet up with Hall as she has Olivia’s arthritis checked out at a mobile veterinary clinic called VET SOS, a free service for homeless pet owners in San Francisco. She starts off by describing Olivia’s breed.
By Kelly Hall
She’s a dachshund-chihuahua-terrier mix. She weighs 13-pounds.
I would be so lonely without her. I cannot even imagine being homeless and not having a dog with me, or my best friend with me. Especially because I’m the type of person too, I’m a bit of a loner. I go to school. I try to keep to myself, and so she really is my only friend and my only support system.
Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News
In a push to cover immigrants excluded from the nation’s health reform law, a California state senator has proposed legislation that would offer health insurance for all Californians, including those living here illegally.
The bill, SB 1005, would extend state-funded Medi-Cal to low-income immigrants who, because they are in the country without permission, are now eligible only for emergency and pregnancy coverage. It would also create a marketplace similar to Covered California to offer insurance policies to higher income immigrants who lack legal status.
It’s not clear how much the new coverage would cost or how the state would fund it.
Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Democrat who represents Long Beach and southeast Los Angeles, announced the proposed legislation at a press conference Friday. He said immigrants contribute to the California economy and deserve to have access to health insurance. Continue reading
Screen shot from an early Covered California TV ad targeting Latinos. The on-screen text says people cannot be turned down for pre-existing conditions, but consultants say that is not a key selling point for Latinos.
It’s been decades since the advertising industry recognized the need to woo Hispanic consumers. Big companies saw the market potential and sank millions of dollars into ads. The most basic do’s and don’ts of marketing to Latinos in the U.S. have been understood for years.
“It’s not a cohesive campaign targeted to Hispanics.”
So when California officials started thinking about how to persuade the state’s Latino population to enroll in health care plans, they should have had a blueprint of what to do. Instead, they made a series of mistakes.
“It’s not a cohesive campaign targeted to Hispanics,” says Bessie Ramirez of the Los Angeles-based Santiago Solutions Group, a Hispanic market research firm that has consulted for large health care clients like HealthNet, Cigna and Blue Cross.
“Frankly, it seems obvious that the launch of this program seemed to have actually turned a blind eye to what the needs of this particular consumer were,” she says. Continue reading