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Examining Lead Exposures in California through State-Issued Health Alerts for Food Contamination and an Exposure-Based Candy Testing Program.

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In California, the annual number of children under age 6 y of age with blood lead levels (BLL) ≥10μg/dL is estimated at over 1,000 cases, and up to 10,000 cases when BLL between 4.5 and 9.5 μg/dL are included. State-issued health alerts for food contamination provide one strategy for tracking sources of food-related lead exposures. As well, California passed legislation in 2006 for the Food and Drug Branch (FDB) of the state health department to test and identify lead in candy. This report presents health alert data from California over a 14-y period, compares data before and after the candy testing program began, and examines country of origin, ZIP code data, and time from candy testing to release of health alerts for lead-contaminated candies for 2011-2012. After 2007, health alerts issued for lead in candy and food increased significantly. Analysis of candy-testing data indicated that multiple counties and ZIP codes were affected. Seventeen candies with high lead concentrations were identified, resulting in rapid dissemination (<2wk) of health alerts to local health departments and community clinicians and to the public. Surveillance of lead exposures from state-based food and candy testing programs provides an opportunity to identify and immediately act to remove nonpaint sources of lead affecting children.

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