lead testing for a kitchen sink

Lead Levels and Portland Public Schools

“Is my family safe?”

At least 4 million households in the U.S. have children living in them who are being exposed to high levels of lead. Most owners of lead-contaminated homes aren’t aware of it.

Lead was recently found in Portland area school buildings and drinking water, proving that lead is a serious problem in local communities. When lead is found in nearby schools, libraries, museums or parks, it is likely that you have been exposed. Your home also has a good chance of containing lead in its paint or water.

Lead testing is the only way to know for sure if lead has found its way into your home.

99% of Portland Schools Have Lead Contamination

Residents are encouraged to have their homes tested for lead contamination after high levels of lead were recently found in two Portland Public Elementary School’s drinking water. The initial discovery of lead contamination spurred Portland Public Schools to test an additional 97 schools in the district. According to Portland NBC News affiliate, 99% of Portland schools were found to have high lead levels. Grant and Jefferson High Schools are at the top of the list, with lead levels high enough to be considered “toxic.”

Schools aren’t the only place in the area found with lead contamination. Portland Parks and Recreation also conducted testing on drinking fountains in public parks that fit certain criteria. At least one park is known to have elevated lead levels at this point. Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that elevated lead levels were detected in water at the Multnomah Arts Center in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Are you affected?

Portland Public Schools recommended that teachers and students be tested for lead poisoning.  As of July 28, 2016, at least 21 students and staff showed elevated levels of lead in their blood. It has not yet been determined if the lead poisoning is from exposure to the lead-contaminated drinking water in the schools, or if it is due to the home environment.

Lead exposure often goes unrecognized because it can occur with no obvious symptoms. It is always recommended that you seek testing if you think you or your child has been exposed to lead. If you live in an older home or close to a school that has been found to have lead contamination, you should have the water in your home tested.

The aqueduct providing the water to Portland Public Schools is not the source of lead in the drinking water. Portland actually has very low levels of lead in its water. The elevated lead levels were found in the schools’ drinking fountains and sinks. Aging pipes and old drinking fountains and faucets are the real culprits. In older structures and homes, water often travels through lead-contaminated pipes, flows past lead solders, to be delivered via faucets that also contain lead.

Going Forward:  What’s Being Done and What You Can Do

Portland Public Schools set a timeline for fixing the lead problem, which is going to be a large and costly project for the school system. At this point, all drinking water sources in Portland Public Schools are bagged and no longer available for use. For now, schools are triaging the problem with bottled water. Sending your child to school with their own bottle of water might be a wise idea until a long term solution is put in place.

Portland Public Schools continue to identify which buildings pose a problem. As more information becomes available, the school district will outline a specific remediation plan. Now that the public is aware of the issue, many Portland metro area schools are conducting tests for lead in their drinking water. Beaverton School District has already discovered elevated lead levels in some of their schools.

Residential Testing by Healthy Home

Residents don’t always know where to turn for help. While industrial hygiene companies are testing schools and public buildings, there is a residential testing solution available for a fraction of the cost. Healthy Home is a locally owned and operated residential environmental testing company that provides affordable lead testing with quick and accurate results. Healthy Home is known for their experienced technicians, professional training, easy-to-read test results and convenient scheduling.

Contact Healthy Home to schedule an appointment to get your home tested for lead.