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Official Blames Lead Levels In Oakland's Fruitvale On Paint

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- While a recent report on the dangerous levels of lead in Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood has families concerned, officials are saying it's not the water people should be worried about after all.

According to a report from Reuters, more than seven percent of children out of 500 kids tested in Oakland's Fruitvale District had elevated levels of lead in their system.

Those results are worse than lead levels found among children Flint, Michigan.

The report raised concerns that residents in the Fruitvale should be worried about drinking the water.

Larry Brooks with Alameda County's lead prevention program said they should not.

"No. In Flint, the problem was the water system," explained Brooks. "In Alameda County, no."

Brooks said the problem issue is the lead paint used on homes prior to 1978.

"Deteriorated lead-based paint can be found throughout Oakland," said Brooks. "Most of the homes built in Oakland were built prior to 1980; 90 percent."

The county's "Healthy Homes" department educates the public and provides grants to qualifying low-income residents to upgrade homes.

But Brooks believes it's not just a Fruitvale problem. It is far more widespread.

"Over the last ten years, we've treated over 5,000 children for lead poisoning in the county," said Brooks. "It is still a clear and present danger for children living in aging homes."

As education on lead poisoning increases, he says so will screening. Health officials might find even more children with elevated level of lead in their blood.

"There is no safe level," said Brooks. "My goal would be zero percent."

Alameda County officials say they have over $3 million to help low-income homeowners deal with lead in their home.

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