UPDATED 8:49 AM PT — Tuesday, August 6, 2019
New York City officials are pledging to address a massive lead poisoning threat posed in hundreds of the city’s school classrooms.
An investigation by WNYC Radio and the Gothamist news site this week revealed a whopping 900 elementary school buildings tested positive for high levels of lead. The report followed EPA lead testing guidelines, and focused on classrooms serving pre-K through second graders along with other common areas.
Local residents have expressed outrage since the report was published, which showed the majority of positive lead tests were in low-income areas. Two schools in the Bronx each had at least a dozen classrooms test positive for high levels of lead, which is a record for a single school.
Meanwhile in a Manhattan, more than 50, 000 micrograms of lead were discovered on a kindergarten classroom’s windowsill. The city’s current standard is 100 micrograms per square foot, which will lower to 40 by 2020.
A federal ban was imposed on lead paint in 1978, which went ignored by New York City public schools until 1980. Activists are calling on Democrat presidential hopeful and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio to immediately address the matter.
While speaking on the report, De Blasio called the issue “ongoing” and attempted to downplay the threat of lead in historic buildings:
“We have older school buildings that have lead paint in them. Whenever you have lead paint you’re regularly going to go back, test, you’re going to repaint, you’re going to remediate — that’s just part of reality in any place that had lead. It’s an ongoing thing, you don’t just do it once, but that’s a very different matter than whether any child is exposed to danger.”
While the Department of Education is required to conduct visual lead inspections of schools serving children under six-years-old, the tests don’t ensure safety. City council members are also demanding the Education Department and Department of Health hold a system-wide inspection of public schools that serve over one million students.