By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — WCCO has learned the number of children exposed to lead poisoning from a Twin Cities factory is twice as high as first reported.

The state shut down Water Gremlin after a WCCO investigation revealed employees unknowingly tracked home lead, harming kids. The number of children linked to the plant with elevated lead levels is now up to 24.

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Here’s how it was discovered. The state temporarily halted operations at the plant, which makes lead fishing sinkers and battery terminals. During that time, some workers and their families got tested for lead.

(credit: CBS)

The Minnesota Department of Health reports that testing uncovered three new kids with elevated blood lead levels. And a deeper investigation found nine more cases tied to the White Bear Township plant.

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Those are in addition to the 12 previous children poisoned in Ramsey County since 2017. Two had blood lead levels so high it could require hospitalization.

There is no safe level for a child. Exposure can result in a lower IQ and behavioral issues.

WCCO has also learned more than half of the workers whose results are in have elevated lead levels. But the health department says they’re below the safe level set by OSHA.

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The company reopened under court order to retrain employees and clean up the lead.

Jennifer Mayerle