child drinking from water fountain
child drinking from water fountain

Practicum Project | 2021

Assessment of cumulative lead exposure in Los Angeles children

Lead is a potent neurotoxin that continues to endanger the health and wellbeing of communities across the greater Los Angeles area. Researchers have identified lead hazards present in soil and water sources at parks, schools and residential areas throughout the city, but a vast majority are in low-income Black and Latino communities. Lead in the environment comes from a variety of sources including drinking water, paint and soil. It can enter the body through inhalation or hand-to-mouth pathways. According to the CDC, there is no safe level of lead in blood, regardless of age group. However, children ages 0-3 and pregnant women absorb lead more easily than other demographic groups and are more susceptible to lead poisoning. Lead poisoning can result in serious learning and developmental issues, along with increased risk of hypertension. While the dangers of acute exposure to lead are well-studied, data on the effects of long-term lead exposure is limited. Removing lead hazards remains the most effective way to reduce the risk of lead exposure. 

Our practicum team will be partnering with UCLA’s Early Head Start program to conduct research that characterizes the extent and severity of lead contamination in Los Angeles and creates a framework for the equitable remediation of lead hazards across the city. Early Head Start provides child development and family support services to pregnant people and children from birth to the age of three. Our team will work with parents and children enrolled in Early Head Start programs to ensure that our prevention plan is robust and informed by the voices of people who are directly impacted by lead contamination. Understanding the history and pathways of lead provides a foundation for our analysis. Given the imminent risks posed by lead contamination, our goal is to provide adequate technologies and widespread support for funding and remediation efforts through our exposure assessment.


Client: UCLA Early Head Start Program

Student Team: Anthony Garcia, Graham Smith, Jocelyn Fermin, Dorothy Nguyen, Karina Rodriguez, Kelly Hollman and Roger Bazan-Flores

Advisors: Naomi Adams and Dr. Jennifer Jay