WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — It’s unlikely students at several Scranton School District buildings were exposed to enough drinking fountain and sink water lead to cause them serious harm.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no reason for concern. As Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains, a NEPA pediatrician says no level is really safe.
A lab technician at the Kirby Health Center in Wilkes-Barre was busy Thursday testing unspecified children’s blood samples for lead. The center supplies the Pennsylvania Department of Health with findings from samples taken throughout the state.
“Lead is highly dangerous because it is silent at first,” said Pediatrician Alvaro G. Reymunde, MD with PAK Pediatrics in Kingston.
Dr. Reymunde says when symptoms eventually show they’re often vague like stomachaches and sluggishness. Parents need to watch for something more.
“You’re going to notice worsening grades, worsening academic achievement. You’ll notice ADHD symptoms. Poor focus, poor attention,” said Dr. Reymunde.
The CDC established a safety threshold of 5 micrograms per deciliter of lead in the blood. While it’s highly unlikely a school water fountain alone would get a child to or above that level, some kids could be getting it at their older homes with lead paint and lead-copper piping.
Dr. Reymunde said, “We have to make sure that we’re not having continued exposure to the lead because you’re body can’t clear it very quickly. So even though your body can clear it slowly, you continue to be exposed it’s just going to keep racking up.”
It’s why lead blood tests are so important. After a tray of blood samples at the Kirby Health Center is atomized, the lead results are learned. For an entire tray, that takes about an hour. But for an individual sample, just two to three minutes.
A small amount of lead is considered easily treatable. It’s why knowing that number can be vital for a child’s health and their parents’ peace of mind.
Doctors typically order lead tests for children at ages one and two years old. After that, it’s up to parents. Parents whose children attend the affected Scranton schools should consider getting their kids tested for lead if they live in homes with lead paint and lead in their water.