Thesis

Environmental lead near Los Angeles city schools

This thesis deals with a new approach to the examination of the freeway as a source of lead body burden in schoolchildren. Environmental microscale data is related to body lead burden and academic performance of youngsters both at schools immediately adjacent to a freeway, and at schools approximately one mile away from a freeway. Although there is currently a trend toward decreasing atmospheric lead levels in the South Coast Air Basin, it is of great importance that we not lose sight of the possibility of human lead exposure on the microscale level. The child who attends a school which is immediately adjacent to a freeway is particularly susceptible to toxic blood lead levels. Three South Central Los Angeles school areas within the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) were tested for local lead levels during the winter of 1977-78. Comparisons were made of the position of the schools with regard to the Harbor Freeway, and soil and atmospheric lead measurements were taken. Validity of area-wide data for South Central Los Angeles is weighed against microscale observations. A statistical analysis revealed that mathematics and reading scores in the LAUSD are affected by proximity to a freeway. Suggestions were made for more adequate detection of environmental lead levels, as well as for city planning possibilities.

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