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Why Lead Poisoning Rates in Eureka are Higher than in Flint, Michigan

By | Kelly Bessum

A recent Reuters report showed that the lead poisoning rate of children in Eureka is 10.9 percent, more than one in every 10 kids. This is more that twice the rate seen in Flint, Michigan which had a 5 percent rate. Contrary to speculation spurred by a Lost Coast Outpost article, the heavy metal is not linked to lead pipes like in Flint. Almost every case in Humboldt has been linked to the lead-based paint in aged homes, as confirmed by the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services.

Lead exposure risks according to housing and poverty data in Humboldt County, CA (left) and Genesee County, MI (right). Data Source: Rad Cunninghnam, Washington State Department of Health / Map Credit: Sarah Frostenson / Web Source: Vox

Lead exposure risks according to housing and poverty data in Humboldt County, CA (left) and Genesee County, MI (right). Data Source: Rad Cunninghnam, Washington State Department of Health / Map Credit: Sarah Frostenson / Web Source: Vox

Water and related infrastructure is good in Humboldt County and people should feel free to drink the tap water as they wish. Humboldt’s water infrastructure was deemed good to excellent and safe for providing clean water in an independent review done by the American Society of Civil Engineers. There have also been no water quality violations recorded by the Environmental Protection Agency in the county in the past 10 years.

The real issue of lead paint in Humboldt County remains. According to the New York Times, the effects of lead exposure are often irreversible and preventing them should be a priority. Lead has been connected to decreased intellectual capacity and negative social behaviors. As Seen in the graphic, Vox used the age of houses and poverty rates to create a nationwide map that shows lead exposure risk by census tract. Though Flint was deemed more at risk, Humboldt County children are still facing higher actual exposure.

Greg Moskowitz, a Humboldt State business major, lives in an apartment where lead paint was recently removed. He noted that many renters in Humboldt County are subjected to living in places with lead paint.

“I still know a lot of people who are living with lead paint and I’d like to see something done,” Moskowitz said. “City hall should set a certain date that lead paint needs to be removed from residences in Humboldt County.”

Lead exposure risks according to housing and poverty data in Humboldt County, CA (left) and Genesee County, MI (right). Data Source: Rad Cunninghnam, Washington State Department of Health / Map Credit: Sarah Frostenson / Web Source: Vox

Lead exposure risks according to housing and poverty data in Humboldt County, CA (left) and Genesee County, MI (right). Data Source: Rad Cunninghnam, Washington State Department of Health / Map Credit: Sarah Frostenson / Web Source: Vox


Currently, landlords are only obligated by federal law to disclose whether or not their building could have lead-based paint. No further action aside from educating people on how to live with lead paint is required. The Humboldt County website states that lead exposure is the most common and preventable environmental threat to young children in the U.S. Visit the county website to get lead poisoning prevention tips.

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