Dangerous Levels of Lead Recorded at Some Detroit Public Schools

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High levels of lead have been detected at some schools in the Detroit Public Schools district, with water test results released Thursday showing that about 15 buildings tested positive for high lead levels, including one where a drinking fountain recorded 100 times the allowable limit, the Detroit News reports.

On Wednesday it was revealed that 19 of 62 schools exceeded the levels of lead or copper that are deemed acceptable. On Thursday a more detailed report was released of the levels found in tap water at those schools, the site notes. 


The executive director of Detroit’s Department of Health reacted to the news Thursday, suggesting that all DPS students under the age of 6 should have a lead screening, regardless of whether they attend a school that exceeded the limit. 

“The test is free. It’s really important,” Dr. Abdul El-Sayed said, according to Detroit News. “We know that lead can have serious consequences later on in life. We want to give every child the best opportunities in life. That means a life free of lead.”

The testing came in the wake of controversy that surrounded the lead contamination in Flint, Mich.’s water after the switch in water source in April 2015. 

“With everything going on in the state of Michigan and across the United States, the time was right and it was the right thing for us to do,” DPS spokesperson Michelle Zdrodowski said, acknowledging that the district is conducting the tests as a precautionary measure. The last time such a test was completed in DPS was in the 2006-2007 school year. 


The district started to collect the water samples during the week of March 28 at 62 district elementary and elementary-middle schools. More than 20 of the district’s middle schools and high schools are scheduled to be screened in the next two weeks. 

“We value all the children and want to make sure they are in a completely safe place,” El-Sayed said, adding that the likelihood of a child being exposed to serious amounts of lead at school is relatively low because DPS has been providing bottled water for students with meals since 2012, well in advance of the test.


“As far as we know, most of the schools were elevated, but not extremely so,” he said.

Samples were taken immediately from taps or fountains, and then a second sample was drawn after a period of flushing—after the fountain or tap had been run for a while—at three locations per school, including drinking fountains and food-prep sinks in kitchens. First-draw sampling—which comes from the water source after it has been inactive for some time—leads to higher readings. Flushing often clears particulate contaminants, which leads to lower levels. 


The tests were conducted by ATC Group, a licensed environmental consulting firm, and cost about $50,000. Half was paid for by a foundation grant, and the other half by DPS. 

“We are working with DPS to make sure alternatives to water use are available,” El-Sayed said.


“Moving forward, the district is considering making this annual testing,” Zdrodowski said.

Read more at the Detroit News

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