Parents Worry As Newark Begins Testing Kids for Possible Lead Poisoning

Parents in Newark said they are worried about the potential effects of high levels of lead found found in the drinking water at half of the city's schools and are ready to get their children tested for possible poisoning.

Nicole Holland said that she "has her fingers crossed" that her daughter Ecstasy doesn't have elevated levels of the metal in her blood after officials found lead in the drinking water at schools across the city.

Holland said her daughter, now a seventh grader, had already contracted lead poisoning once as a child from the paint in their home. 

"We hear that she may be exposed to it again and it's breaking my heart," Holland said. "She went through so much."

Health officials announced that the city would test up to 17,000 children for elevated levels of the toxin on Tuesday. Testing will start with some 2,000 toddlers who attend early childhood centers, including the Samuel Berliner school on Thursday. 

Lead is known to severely affect a child's development, but the effects can take years to show, including loss of appetite, stomach pains and learning disabilities. 

"Often, children don't show symptoms until many, many years of exposure, so there's a very long latent period in which the child will be fine, and then all of a sudden his learning is not good, he's not doing well in school,"  said Lenox Hospital emergency physician Robert Glatter. 

Glatter says lead testing in the early-age group usually involves a simple blood draw, and "the child just has to sit still." 

A critical lead number is anything over 10 micrograms per liter of blood. 

The testing plan beyond the early-age group is still being drawn up and must be presented to the city council and mayor. It's unclear how long students were exposed to the heavy metal, but schools are now using bottled water for drinking and cooking. 

In the week since the higher lead levels were first reported, officials have urged calm. They say the lead levels in some of Newark's schools don't compare to the lead crisis that has plagued Flint, Michigan.

But at a meeting at Newark Arts High School Wednesday night, parents rallied for new infrastructure. 

"They need to go and put the money into the schools to fix the piping in the schols and put the filters in the schools properly," said parent Kyeatta Hendricks. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us