- With the help of $50,000 in grant funding from a local coalition called Neighborhood Connections to Health, New Jersey's Freehold Borough School District plans to screen its nearly 1,700 students for lead exposure this year, the Asbury Park Press reports.
- In June, the school district worked with the Freehold Township Health Department to screen more than 60 children under the age of 6 whose parents volunteered them to be tested. They found only a few that tested above 5 micrograms per deciliter, the level at which state law says doctors must flag infants and young kids.
- However, students in the district are considered at a higher risk of exposure than normal because about 80% of them are low-income, about 85% of the available housing was built before 1978 – when the use of lead-based paint was banned. Additionally, the majority of students are Hispanic, prompting concerns about lead-tainted candies imported from Mexico and sold in local stores.
Stories concerning students facing lead exposure are popping up more often as testing for the issue increases. California recently came under fire for its lenient laws regarding testing for lead levels in school water supplies, an issue that many school districts are dealing with across the nation. Many states, including Vermont, are addressing the problem with new initiatives.
However, only about 20% of lead exposure comes from water supplies. Rather, it's more likely to come from sources such as paint dust, which is often found in homes built before 1978. Since low-income families are more likely to live in these homes, and don't always have the resources to deal with these issues, their children are also more likely to be exposed to lead. This can lower IQ and increase behavioral and developmental problems in kids.
Though lead exposure is a problem, is it one that can be addressed. Some states, like New Jersey, have created funds through special taxes that are supposedly set aside to help deal with these issues. However, as is the case in the state, the government sometimes raids these funds for other uses. Community initiatives, such as the one funding the Freehold Borough testing, are other avenues for funding. Health departments and county governments may also be able to help.
In the meantime, schools can also educate children and parents about the dangers of lead exposure. Sound nutrition can also help counteract some of the effects, which should be a consideration in school nutrition programs and home education. The more that can be done to address the issue, the less likely schools will be dealing with the aftermath of lead exposure.