Public Health Launches ENRICH to Address Community Impacts of Exide Pollution

LOS ANGELES – As a part of Public Health Week, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is launching Early Needs Response to Infant and Child Health (ENRICH), a model of peer-to-peer support in which highly trained and life experienced “Family Partners” assist parents and caregivers with services for their children with mild to moderate developmental delays.

Many residents in East LA were exposed to harmful chemicals released by a battery recycling facility (Exide Technologies) in the city of Vernon. The facility closed in 2015, but, during its operation, harmful toxic chemicals, including lead, were released into the surrounding communities. East LA has a large Latinx, lower-income, and immigrant population and exposure to environmental hazards pose a short and long-term risk to the health of residents.

Exide’s disregard of the health and quality of life of residents living in the surrounding communities is an example of the how lax enforcement of policies have allowed companies to cause irreparable damage from known environmental hazards.

In 2017, Public Health deployed its entire workforce in an area-wide health campaign to educate residents of the Exide-impacted community about the risks of the toxic environmental exposures and where to find available services. The outreach effort reached approximately 20,000 homes and included a community survey asking residents to voice their opinions, priorities and concerns. Residents responded consistently and overwhelmingly that they need increased access to healthcare and specialized services, and enhanced provider awareness on the effect of environmental health hazards on the mental, behavioral, and physical health and well-being of children and their families.

ENRICH fulfills the County’s and DPH’s commitment to a community that has been disproportionately threatened by environmentally hazardous conditions, that is subjected to racial inequities, and that suffers from significantly worse health outcomes. The resulting health inequities are directly linked to the social, economic and/or environmental disadvantages faced by East LA residents every day.

ENRICH also encourages healthcare providers in the area most impacted by Exide’s environmental waste to screen younger patients for developmental delays, a common consequence of environmental toxicity.

“Protecting the health and well-being of First District residents is of paramount importance to me,” said Supervisor Solis. “Today’s launch of the Early Needs Response to Infant and Child Health (ENRICH) is in response to the decades of lead and other toxic contamination deposited in the East and Southeast communities from Exide Technologies. And to that end, thank the advocacy of our community members for the allocation of $454 million in the State’s budget proposal last year to address the Exide clean-up — which also helped to fund this initiative. While we must continue to speak to the injustices Exide caused, and hold them accountable, I will not stop fighting to ensure that the public health needs of our most vulnerable residents are not ignored. I invite all residents to learn more about ENRICH and help empower their neighbors to participate in several activities this week as part of Public Health Week.“

“ENRICH is an opportunity for us to work together with residents to address the conditions that continue to threaten the lives and the livelihoods of people in communities where there are high rates of poverty coupled with environmental racism,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “We cannot hide from racism or acknowledging how much racism effects the distribution of essential resources needed for us to be healthy and raise our families in safe environments where we don’t have to worry about lead in the soil or pollution in the air. ENRICH will help because it builds on the wise counsel of individuals with lived experience who are committed to working together to get services and knowledge to their neighbors.”