Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health      

kidsdata advisory

The Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health | February 6, 2013

Despite Progress, Kids Still Exposed to Pollutants in Many California Counties

Poor air quality, polluted water and exposure to lead have a particularly negative impact on children because their developing bodies are more fragile and their skin is more permeable. High levels of toxic substances in the environment put children at risk of developing serious chronic illnesses.

Newly updated data show that although some pollution measures in California have declined since the early 2000s, certain regions across California continue to face significant challenges with polluted air, contaminated drinking water, and dangerous toxins, such as lead.

Pollution also can affect families and communities in other ways, increasing costs for health care and basic needs like clean water. Research has shown that low-income families and communities of color are disproportionately exposed to pollution. offers several environmental health measures that can help track children’s exposure to pollutants.

Air Quality:

  • That same year, San Bernardino County had the most recorded days (103) with ozone levels above the regulatory standard, among counties with available data, followed by Riverside (93), Tehama (78), Kern (69), and Los Angeles (69). The state as a whole averaged 15 days in which ozone concentrations exceeded regulations in 2010.

Lead Exposure:

  • In 2010, almost one-third (30%) of California children and youth identified with elevated blood levels resided in Los Angeles County. The vast majority of children screened for lead poisoning are under age 6 because Medicaid and state regulations require that every child covered by a government-funded health program be preventively screened for lead poisoning twice, once at 12 months old and again at age 2 (or at the next opportunity up until age 6).

Water Contamination:

  • California had 1,730 violations indicating that contaminant levels in drinking water exceeded public health limits in 2009. Nearly two-thirds of these violations occurred in seven counties: Fresno (254 violations), Tulare (208), Kern (198), Madera (132), San Joaquin (110), Monterey (101), and Sonoma (100).

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In 2010, California had an average of 15 days with ozone levels above the U.S. standard, a decline from 39 in 2002. Environmental pollutants put children at risk of developing serious illnesses, such as asthma and cancer. Mascots is a program of the Lucile Packard Foundation of Children's Health, which uses data to promote the health and well being of children.
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