Prolonged proximity to lead has been linked to long-lasting behavioral problems and brain development impairment, writes Chalkbeat, noting that this can cause poor academic performance, trouble developing positive social relationships and misbehavior.
While there is no safe level of lead exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, studies have shown that effects can be mitigated by “swift” and “early” treatment and a nutritional diet.
Exposure to lead is more likely to be felt by poorer students, who are more likely to live, or attend school, in older buildings that either have lead in their paint or in aged and corrosive pipes.
Exacerbating this issue is the fact that, as Chalkbeat points out, low-income children are less likely to have access to healthy food options — a factor that is important in minimizing some of the effects of lead exposure (“... bodies will absorb less lead if they’re eating other essential metals that humans need, like calcium and iron,” Morri Markowitz, director of the Lead Poisoning Treatment and Prevention Program at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx told Chalkbeat.)
This reality is why administrators and educators in low-income communities should be more aware of the fact that lead-exposure could be impacting their student body. While getting rid of the source — i.e. lead paint or pipes — can be impossible for a school if the source is a home, specifically public housing, making sure parents (and students) are informed and educated about the risks is important for catching exposure as soon as possible.
Districts can consider sending a letter home about the effects of lead and what to look for within their homes, or how to request that lead levels are tested in their water or walls. Each state law is, of course, different. In Illinois, for example, landlords are not required to test for lead paint. They can only be required to remove it if a tenant’s blood shows exposure.
Encouraging families to take their children to have their blood tested is another option. Additionally, lessons on the topic could potentially be taught in classrooms.