lead | KUOW News and Information

lead

When the drinking water in Flint, Mich., became contaminated with lead, causing a major public health crisis, 11-year-old Gitanjali Rao took notice.

Portland Public Schools said Thursday it's OK to eat vegetables grown in the dozens of community gardens on school grounds.

That reverses advice from last week telling Portlanders not to eat the school garden produce due to high levels of lead in school water used to irrigate the plants.

Regulators in Salem, gardeners in Portland, lab technicians in Washington — they've all been studying toxic lead this summer. Health regulators want to add one more group to that list: building contractors.

“As many as 50 percent of all poisoning cases result from some kind of renovation activities in homes," said Perry Cabot, lead specialist in Multnomah County's Public Health Department. "That is the next big thing that’s been really tackled, but not fully and not successfully yet around the country.”

Connie Hill of Columbus, Ohio, got some unsettling news after her son's 12-month checkup.

A nurse called to say that the 1-year-old's blood lead level test had come back as slightly elevated, which would put him in the top 2.5 percent of lead-exposed children ages 1 to 5 in the United States.

A recent independent investigation into Portland Public Schools’ handling of high lead levels in school drinking water forced Superintendent Carole Smith’s retirement. But it also revealed deeper problems: a school district where management practices were even more deficient than the aging schools kids attend every day.

It's a problem all-too-familiar to the people responsible for making sure our schools are safe, every day.

Oregon school districts are preparing to test for the presence of lead as a result of new rules proposed by Gov. Kate Brown. Members of the Oregon Board of Education Thursday signaled a desire to move quickly on the proposal.

Oregon schools could soon be required to test for the presence of lead in drinking water, paint and even dirt. That's according to a set of rules proposed Tuesday by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown. It adds to a list that already included radon and other chemicals.

When lead was taken out of products like paint and gasoline, levels of the metal in the blood of U.S. children dropped. But the American Academy of Pediatrics says the problem is not over.

Eugene Schools Find Lead In Water

Jun 14, 2016

The Eugene School District said Monday it found elevated lead levels in the water at four separate schools.

The elevated lead was found in one or more water faucets at Kennedy Middle School, Roosevelt Middle School, Sheldon High School and the district office.

According to the district, it announced the initial test results for Kennedy Middle School last week, but the lead level results for other campuses are new.

An environmental testing firm is confirming the results.

The number of people in Portland testing their water for lead has spiked dramatically this month.

In a typical year, the Portland Water Bureau sends out about 3,000 kits to customers who want to test their drinking water for lead. But in the first nine days of June alone, the water bureau has received 1,500 requests for test kits. And that’s on top of roughly 2,900 kits the water agency sent between January and May.

“It’s been quiet a significant increase for us this year," said Scott Bradway, who manages lead hazard reduction efforts at the Portland Water Bureau.

This week, parents upset about lead in school water fountains have called for Portland Public Schools Superintendent Carole Smith to resign.

But federal, state and city officials have known for years that schools and homes in the Portland area are at risk for lead above federal drinking water standards.

For years, Multnomah County has been warning people about lead contamination in the home — from paint dust to pottery.

It’s also warned about water, but with the caveat that lead in the water is not a common source of poisoning.

News that 47 Portland School District buildings have shown elevated lead levels in the water in recent years has some experts re-examining that stance.

Portland Public Schools Superintendent Carole Smith met families at Creston School on Tuesday night because the district’s bungled lead response was worst there. Smith announced a three-part plan to the unfolding water debacle.

She wants to form a community task force on drinking water and hire two sets of outside investigators – one for recent, and one for longer-term lead problems.

But Smith immediately faced tough questions at Tuesday's meeting. School board member Steve Buel objected to her supervising the investigations.

Portland Public Schools officials have known about lead in the water at some of their schools since at least 2012, according to emails obtained by OPB.

The emails show the district has been dealing with possible elevated lead exposure to students and teachers long before recent revelations that two schools tested above the district's safety standards.

News of toxic lead in the air and water have many parents on high alert. Lead poisoning in children can cause permanent brain damage.

A Beaverton middle school is the latest place to confront exposure to a toxic metal. Beaverton School District officials announced Monday they found lead in two drinking water fountains at Highland Park Middle School.

District staff have shut off the water fountains at Highland Park and provided water dispensers in classrooms. The district is not providing lead testing for students at the school, but they recommend concerned parents consult their children's physician.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued a cease and desist order Thursday against Bullseye Glass Co. in Portland.

The move comes after the Department of Environmental Quality found toxic levels of lead in air monitors near a daycare facility.

DEQ officials recorded lead levels at three times the 24-hour benchmark. Exposure to lead has been shown to decrease IQ levels in children.

File Photo of an old water fountain.
Flickr Photo/Paul Domenick (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/dqusC4

Washington lawmakers want to step up efforts to keep lead out of school drinking water. But the state won't pay for school water quality tests until at least fall of 2017.


Bill Radke speaks with Associated Press reporter Donna Blankinship about her story a large portion of schools in Washington state don't have the funding they need to be able to test for lead in the water. 

Utility crews in Seattle and Tacoma are on the hunt for lead goosenecks.


Chipping paint is a lead poisoning danger to kids.
Flickr Photo/Nancy Waldman (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/2Unkx2

Jeannie Yandel speaks with Seattle Times health reporter JoNel Aleccia about lead risks in Washington state. Children in the state have low risks of lead poisoning, but health officials say the biggest lead risks are not in the water; they exist in lead paint in old houses and other environments like some construction sites. 

Testing for lead in Washington schools is still voluntary seven years after the state passed rules to make it mandatory. That’s because state lawmakers never provided funding to pay for the testing.

Tacoma School District officials will test every school's water quality. That's after results from last May showed unacceptable levels of lead in six Tacoma schools.

District officials say they're investigating why no one took action to fix the problems.

Bill Radke talks with (Tacoma) News Tribune reporter Debbie Cafazzo about the presence of lead in the drinking water at six schools in the Tacoma School District. Radke also talks with Tacoma resident Elizabeth Rudge. Her home is one of 1,700 that may have lead in the water supply.

Screenshot of the water service map.
Seattle Public Utilities

Seattle Public Utilities staff explained their advice for residents to the Seattle City Council on Monday.

Here are the takeaways:

What's the problem? Is Seattle's drinking water safe?

water sink tap
Flickr Photo/Alena Navarro-Whyte (CC BY ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/asF1o

People in Tacoma, Washington still don't know how bad their lead problem is.

The city says 1,700 Tacoma households and small businesses could be at risk. But it's unknown how many of those customers have high lead levels in their water.

File Photo of an old water fountain.
Flickr Photo/Paul Domenick (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/dqusC4

Utility officials in Seattle say residents should turn on the faucet for a few minutes if the water hasn't run for six hours. The precaution comes after high levels of lead were found in water lines connected to four Tacoma homes.

In the mornings, Jeff Mastrandea waits a good 30 seconds after turning on his faucet. He also makes sure to drink from a filter. He does this because his water is sometimes laced with unsafe levels of lead. He wants to let any water with the toxic metal drain out before he takes a drink.

When the famously pure water from Portland’s Bull Run Watershed sits overnight in the copper plumbing of his 1984 Gresham home, it corrodes the lead solder that fuses those pipes together.

Residents of Flint, Mich., may tell you lead is a serious menace, but for most of the last 5,000 years, people saw lead as a miracle metal at the forefront of technology.

"You can think about lead as kind of the plastic of the ancient world," says Joseph Heppert, a professor of chemistry at the University of Kansas. He says it was because lead is easy to melt — a campfire alone can do it. Unlike iron, lead is malleable.

When a doctor found that Kenicer Carty's 1-year-old daughter had a dangerously high level of lead last year, it triggered an alarm of sorts. Officials sent an inspector to Carty's 1930 row house in northeast Baltimore. It turned out that every single window had hazardous chipping lead paint.

Pages