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Urgent need for lead testing in schools

Urgent need for lead testing in schools

The longer we don't test, the more we expose our children to potential lead poisoning

In 1978, the federal government banned lead from household paint.

The 1996 federal ban on lead additives in gasoline was hailed as a monumental achievement for public health and the environment.

Lead has long been recognized as a major health hazard, resulting in learning disabilities and brain damage in those who are exposed to it, even in small quantities.

Young children are most susceptible. There is no known safe level of lead in a child's body. And lead poisoning is incurable.

Yet here we are, in 2016, decades after the federal government recognized the urgency in removing lead from products that might expose the most people to its dangers, and New York state still doesn't require schools to test for lead in their drinking water supplies.

Isn't it time we join the rest of mankind in recognizing the significant dangers posed by exposure to this heavy metal and take steps to remove it from the place where our children spend six hours a day, 180 days a year, for 13 of the first 18 years of their lives?

While lead has been removed from paint and gasoline, it's still prevalent in fittings found in water pipes, particularly those in communities with very old water systems. As lead solder and piping degrades, the lead gets into the water carried by the pipes, where it surfaces in drinking fountains, sinks and cooking supplies.

Finally, a bill with sponsors in both the state Assembly and Senate is moving through the Legislature that would require schools to test for lead and report the results promptly and publicly. It also would authorize the state Education Department to provide funding to districts through state building aid.

The bill (A9687/S7103) has multiple sponsors in each house, including local Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara and local state Sens. Kathy Marchione and George Amedore. (Why aren’t the rest of our local legislators on board?)

With multiple sponsors in both houses, it’s got a good chance of passage if other lawmakers recognize the urgency and step up and support it.

The problem is that the legislative session comes to an abrupt and random end next week, which doesn’t give supporters a lot of time to drum up a full head of steam for the legislation.

But if lawmakers can spend a part of the last week before the end of session posing for selfies with their pets for Animal Advocacy Day, as they did Tuesday, they can sit down together and hammer out legislation that advocates for the health of our children.

This legislation needs to be passed right now to ensure the testing and reporting protocol can be initiated immediately and the funding levels secured to help ease the cost to local taxpayers.

Already, several schools in the state have reported high levels of lead in their drinking water. They're most likely not alone.

In addition to testing, funding needs to be provided for alternative water sources and filtration. To pay for the additional safety measures, maybe the state can syphon off some of the money used to pay for ads for the failing Start-Up NY program. (That's just one potential source of funding off the top of our heads. We’re sure there is other less vital spending in the state budget.)

Lead poisoning can have lifelong effects, and our children are potentially exposed to it in the very places where we send them to learn.

The danger to lead exposure has long been known. Isn't it time New York state finally do something significant to prevent it?

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