Lead exposure for our children has been in and out of the news for a few years–now back in, unfortunately. I have written about this previously. 21 school districts statewide have recently reported elevated lead levels; several of these are local. Overall, approximately 800 locations are covered by updated regulations adopted last summer by the state Department of Education for testing of school drinking water. In Toms River, Pine Beach, South Toms River, West Dover, and Washington Street Elementary schools all had a few locations within their buildings with unacceptable lead levels. Fortunately in each of those places, no contaminated areas involved student drinking fountains but rather only cleaning and janitorial stations. Unfortunately, previously in Brick Drum Point, Emma Havens, and Herbertsville Schools also had these problems with the first 2 including some drinking locations.
In all of the above instances, school authorities have been quick to note the problem and commit to prompt correction. In the short term this involved isolating the contaminated fixtures and avoiding the use of water from them; long term requires replacing old pipes and plumbing fixtures. And the state has added an additional $10 million (on top of a like amount appropriated last year) to fund those capital improvements.
So–reason to remain vigilant and concerned. No cause for alarm.
I’d like to close with 2 additional points. Presently elected officials on the national level have committed to comprehensive review of government regulations affecting so much of business and public life. I say–great. New sets of eyes can bring fresh perspective; things change, information is updated, and often we can find new, better, and maybe even less expensive ways to do these things. But we must be careful to not –literally–“throw out the baby with the bath water.” Lead exposure illustrates that there are often very solid reasons behind plenty of these rules, and many people–in particular vulnerable children–are protected by those regulations being on the books. In life it has been my experience that some people– who’s financial interests may be adversely affected by those guidelines and mandates– at times, shall we say, may have difficulty fully appreciating those virtues. As a pediatrician who has dedicated over half of my life to children’s health, I, for one, am grateful that people both at the state Department of Environmental Protection AND at the federal Environmental Protection Agency are there to help look out for those kids.
And one more thing. Nationally we have become more aware of the issue of lead toxicity since the events in Flint, Michigan in 2015. There, the problem was uncovered thanks to the dogged persistence of a local pediatrician, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha–an Iraqi immigrant–on behalf of her patients. Dr. Hanna-Attisha is a credit to the medical profession and our nation owes her a debt of gratitude.
Please send along questions and comments, and thanks for following.