Mom of PPS student: Lead ‘makes me want to leave’

Over the last 3 weekends, 628 people have been screened at PPS

A PPS student got a free lead screening, August 7, 2016 (KOIN)
A PPS student got a free lead screening, August 7, 2016 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Teresa Marple took her daughter, Zoe, for a free lead screening at the Portland Public School district office Sunday. Zoe, who went to Woodstock Elementary, has an elevated reading of 3.8 micrograms per deciliter.

That is less than the 5 micrograms the CDC considers actionable, but is high enough to warrant a follow up test with her doctor.

Marple was furious.

> Deciliter = 1/10 of a liter
> Microgram = one-millionth of a gram
> Definition of lead poisoning
> CDC – Blood lead levels in children

“It makes me want to leave. It makes me want to move away,” she told KOIN 6 News. “They’re telling us to be careful but meanwhile we have to send our kids to the school.”

Zoe just finished 5th grade and will move to middle school this fall.

PPS won’t let any student drink from the water fountains at any school this coming year and has offered free lead screenings throughout the summer.

“Over the last 3 weekends, 628 people have been screened here” at the district office, said PPS Director of Risk Management Joe Crelier.

Of those screened, 5 children and 2 adults were found to have elevated levels above the current CDC action level. But the high level does not mean the school building was the only possible source of contamination. In fact, the first 2 students with an elevated level were found to have been lead poisoned from sources inside their homes.

Dr. Zane Horowitz, the medical director for the Oregon Poison Center, told KOIN 6 News parents “need to have their homes investigated because invariably the source is going to be their homes and not the drinking fountain at school.”

In extreme cases, Horowitz said, medication will be used to treat high lead levels. More typically, though, the focus will be eliminating the source of the lead exposure.

Sign up for free PPS lead testing

Though they can’t undo what’s already done, the school district said they are taking action.

“There’s a lot of new folks here. There’s a lot of folks who are now empowered with the proper budget and we’re moving forward,” Crelier said. Asked if they have the money to tackle the problem, he said that’s a question for the school board.

“I know in the short term emergency procurements have been approved,” he said.

Free lead tests are set for August 13-14 and August 20-21 at the Blanchard Education Service Center.

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