Alameda County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis presented a report this week on the correlation between poverty, substandard housing and health inequities in Oakland neighborhoods, speaking this week at the City Council’s Community and Economic Development (CED) committee.
Providing an update on lead contamination, Larry Brooks, director of operations of Alameda County Healthy Homes Department, told councilmembers that dangerous levels of lead in the soil can be found not only in the Fruitvale District but throughout the city and puts children at risk.
In his report, Dr. Davis said there are certain areas of the city where “accumulated risk” factors exist – high levels of poverty, multiple families living in unsafe housing conditions, high numbers of asthma attacks.
These factors lead to significantly lower life expectancy in East Oakland, West Oakland and Fruitvale District neighborhoods, he said.
In Oakland there were 613 new asthma cases in 2014 – 14 percent in District 3, 26 percent in District 5, 23 percent in District 6 and 23 percent in District 7. The remaining 14 percent were in higher-income neighborhoods.
Brooks said the high levels of lead found in children’s blood comes from the chips of lead-based paint that ends up in the soil and in the dust around older Oakland homes.
The national average for elevated blood lead levels in children is 2.5 percent.
In the Fruitvale District the rate is 7.57 percent. But citywide, the rate is also unacceptable – 6 percent.
More than 90 percent of Oakland housing was built before 1980, when lead in paint was banned. Forty percent of Oakland’s housing was built before World War II, Davis said.
“Substandard housing is the new affordable housing for many Oakland residents,” said Brooks, pointing out that many residents in these units do not complain because they are concerned that landlords will evict them and their families will end up being homeless.
Brooks urged the city to adopt a “proactive” housing inspection program, checking housing to make sure conditions are safety.
At present, inspections are complaint driven, which means that inspectors do not visit buildings unless tenants ask for them.