Oakland mom warns families about lead, after son tested positive

OAKLAND, Calif. -- An Oakland mother has a warning for local families after her baby boy tested positive for high levels of lead.

Because of the local lead hazards that have been discovered recently, Assemblyman Bill Quirk just introduced a bill requiring all children be screened for lead.

KTVU’s Alyana Gomez is revealing other hidden hazards you may never have known about, that could have a major impact on your child’s health.

You think you know everything about your home, but like this Oakland mother, you may have no idea how harmful it might be to the most precious members of your family.

“You can’t even notice you know. They’re still acting normal. Until you get them tested that’s when you really find out,” said Stephanie Avila of Oakland.

Stephanie Avila’s parents have owned their home off of 83rd Avenue in East Oakland for decades. They’ve raised their kids in it, and their kids’ kids too. It wasn’t until her son’s one year checkup, when Stephanie found out their family home was contaminated with lead.

“I was scared because my parents were like ‘what? How does he have lead’. I guess because the houses are old in the area, most of them have it,” she said..

Old, cracked and peeling paint on the exterior of the home was found to be the main threat. A wood railing leading up to the home’s entryway, that her son plays on often was also found to have lead. All this was found by Alameda County’s Healthy Homes inspectors.

“They just told me to wash his hands a lot after he grabs stuff to make sure that he doesn’t put all the lead in his mouth from grabbing the…for example now he’s playing with that. They said that has a lot of lead on it,” said Stephanie.

At only 18 months old little Alex can’t help but put his hands in his mouth, so in the meantime Stephanie says she tries to limit his time playing outside the house.

“The lead is sweet and they like it so they put it in their mouth a lot,” said Stephanie.

Ingesting paint or even dirt aren’t the only lead contaminates kids like to eat. Candy and sweets are another source of lead, a shocking discovery the California Department of Public Health tests for annually.

We dug up the test results for this year, but so far so good. Last year, seven candy companies tested positive for lead.

You might be surprised to find some familiar brands…like Smarties.

Their candy necklaces had .06 parts per million, which is considerably low, and just under the lead limit of .10parts per million.

Patel’s Sweet and Salty confectionery was over the lead limit with .18 parts per million. Experts say any amount of lead exposure can be dangerous.

Lead lurks in other surprising places like furniture, toys and even jewelry. A Restoration hardware metal top table was recalled last week for risks of lead exposure. Last month, a toy shovel sold on Amazon was recalled for lead paint.

Last year, Things Remembered recalled more than 6,000 silver charm bracelets and necklaces because the product exceeded the allowable limit for lead.

Items you would least expect, could leave lasting effects on your child's growth and development.

“It’s been hard because he’s so young and sometimes we don’t know if he cries, or when he has fusses, if it has to do with the lead or not,” said Stephanie.

In December, we learned about the alarming number of children exposed to high levels of lead in the Fruitvale district.

City and county leaders are working towards becoming more proactive, instead of reactive, starting with universal testing for children.It’s an idea that has Stephanie’s full support.

“A lot of parents be like no they don’t need it, for what, and they should get them tested because it’s something really bad for them,” she said.

If you don’t take that first step, you’ll never know how harmful your home, toys, gifts or goodies could be for your little ones.
Alameda County Healthy Home Inspectors will test for lead hazards in your home. They also work with the families to remedy the issue. Stephanie Avila qualified for the county’s program, making her eligible to receive grant money to pay for a new paint job on her house. Right now, they’re waiting for the work to be done.

If you would like to get your child tested for lead, contact your pediatrician, or the Alameda County Healthy Homes Department at (510) 567-8280.

They can also provide information on getting your home tested for lead.