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How does high levels of lead in water affect children?

Posted at 5:54 PM, Nov 18, 2016

Dangerous levels of lead found in drinking water at dozens of schools in Cleveland.

The district says it's working to replace hundreds of drinking fountains, restroom faucets and other water fixtures.

But what about the children who drank the tainted water?

The fact that lead is being found in schools, experts tell me is a double whammy, making the likelihood of a child having lead in their blood even greater now.

"The body has no value for lead, it's important for us to just try to get the lead out," said Michael Reed, Clinical Research Center Director at UH babies & Children.

Sitting down talking to Dr. Reed today, I found out that lead poisoning is linked to multiple behavioral and academic issues often misdiagnosed.

“There are many reasons that a child may be irritable, misbehave, not do well in school, but we need to be thinking of lead," he said.

When the district proactively started looking into the lead problem in their schools water systems this year, they stopped the use of drinking fountains, and instead have had kids drink out of water coolers, which is the best idea experts said.

"I just knew that we as a district had to find out if there was an issue,” said Patrick Zohn, Chief Operating Officer, Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

But what of the students from last year or the year before that who could've been drinking lead poisoned water and not know it?

“As to those who went there before, I can’t speak to what levels were there because nobody knows what exposure there may or may not have been,” Zohn said.

Dr. Reed, an expert in this field, explained the repercussions of lead in a drinking fountain are typically minor, that's given a child isn't expose anywhere else.

“It’s still an added effect. If I'm being exposed lead by paint or some larger source and I have a pretty substantial amount of lead in my body, drinking lead contaminated water will continue to factor into that.”

While any amount of lead at any age is a problem, experts said the biggest concern is with kids 6 and under.

“The problem with younger children is they will absorb, more of the lead that they get exposed to particularly if they eat it, will be absorbed into their blood and into their body than an older child...and their organs are growing at that time," said Dr. Reed.

He adds the most important thing is to get tested.

“Unfortunately, lead is a silent poison for the most part, we need to be suspicious we need to be thoughtful that is lead a problem."

As of right now, the school district said they are not testing kids for lead from previous but are strongly advising parents to go and have them tested on their own.