Last Thursday night, I gave a presentation on the capital plan to District 6 CEC. Since many of the parents in the district at the meeting were understandably concerned about the high levels of lead reported in the water of some of their schools -- including a finding of 6,620 parts per billion (ppb) and 493 ppb at the building shared by Muscota and Amistad, as well as elevated levels at P.S. 98, I.S. 52 and Washington Heights Academy -- I also provided an update on this critical issue.
Initially, DOE also refused to test the water in schools built after 1986-- even though most experts advised all schools should be tested. As we saw in the case of Muscota, new school buildings sometimes have lead levels as high or higher than older buildings. In response to the city's insistence on flushing the water before testing it, Dr. Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech expert who brought national attention to the crisis in Flint said, “The results should be thrown into the garbage, and the city should start over."
Then in June 2016, the NY legislature passed a new law requiring that water at all schools be tested with the “first draw” to more accurately assess the lead levels that a child might be exposed to, as recommended by experts and the EPA.
Parents and others were supposed to be informed of the results within six weeks of testing, and also be told the plans to remediate the lead; districts were mandated to report all results to the state no later than November 11, 2016.
But what has not yet been widely reported is that even earlier, in June 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics came out with new guidelines that schools should limit the amount of lead in their water to no more than 1 part per billion, as opposed to the 15 parts per billion mandated in NY state law. Why? Because as AAP stated, ”There is no identified threshold or safe level of lead in blood…No Amount of Lead Exposure is Safe for Children.”
Indeed, research has shown that children with blood levels even less than 5 micrograms per deciliter suffer from lower IQ , worse test scores, and higher rates of inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity.
Here is a post I wrote earlier, with the research evidence that there is no safe threshold -- given that any detectable blood levels of lead in children are correlated with worst outcomes. See the charts to the right, from a study by researchers at Yale and Brown called "Lead Exposure and Racial Disparities in Test Scores," showing that preschool children with very low levels of lead are likely to have lower test scores in later grades in math and ELA.
All of which makes the comments of Oxiris Barbot, the first deputy commissioner of NYC Department of Health, as quoted in DNAinfo, frankly irresponsible: