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Detroit wants all schools, early childhood centers to test water for lead

Flickr user David Salafia/Flickr

The city of Detroit wants all its schools to test for lead in drinking water.

The Detroit Public Schools is already on board with the initiative, and has tested 60 schools so far.

But Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, the Detroit health department director, says the city won’t stop there.

“We’ll be reaching out to charters, pre-schools, day cares, Head Starts, in the coming weeks. We’d like to ideally have all the schools tested before school gets out,” El-Sayed said.

He says the city secured $135,000 from the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation to help cover the costs of testing. “This should cover, on average, more than half of the cost of doing this,” he said.

Schools and early childhood centers will be required to follow the most recent Environmental Protection Agency protocol and submit drinking water samples to an EPA-certified lab. Results must be submitted to the Detroit Health Department within 60 days of testing.

The city can’t compel schools to do this, but El-Sayed says the city expects “nothing but partnership on this opportunity,” noting the health department does have some oversight and licensing authority when it comes to building safety.

At the same time, city health officials will step up yearly testing of blood lead levels for young children — something it hasn’t really done for the past five years, El-Sayed said.

That will include in-school lead screening for all kids under six, and for all students at schools found to have high levels of lead in water.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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