Legislature to vote on updating lead testing for public school buildings

    London Lamar Representative from District 91
    Representative London Lamar from District 91- credit to Tennessee government website

    The Tennessee House of Representatives will vote Wednesday on a bill to revise a 2019 law enacted to minimize potential sources of lead contamination from public school drinking water and child-care programs.

    Introduced by Rep. London Lamar, provisions require officials to notify parents within 24 hours when lead levels exceed legal limits, to retest within 30 days of any corrective action and to allow local departments of health to inspect sites of drinking sources to confirm that contaminated sources have been removed and then develop a mandatory action plan within five days of notification.

    “All we’re trying to do is to update the state to federal standards,” said Lamar.

    In 2019, at least 94 public schools in 30 different districts in Tennessee were found to have high levels of lead after the bill took effect January of that year.

    Tennessee officials found lead and other toxins in drinking fountains, sinks for washing hands and areas used to prepare food for students.

    The bill specifically targets school facilities constructed prior to 1998 and was inspired by the 2014 crisis in Flint, Michigan, where cost-cutting measures were found to be at fault for widespread contamination. Many children in Flint, Michigan now require special education due to lead poisoning.

    “Childhood lead poisoning remains a leading environmental threat to the health of child,” said the Tennessee American Academy of Pediatrics (TNAAP).

    According to TNAAP, children can be exposed to lead from different sources, including lead-based paint found in older homes and buildings, dust and soil contaminated with lead and parent’s occupations. Lead exposure in tap water occurs when plumbing decays and water sitting overnight while schools are not in session can contain high levels of lead.

    Lead sources in school are still a threat, said Lamar.

    Low levels of lead can still interfere with brain development, cause aggressiveness or inattentiveness and impede academic achievement, accord to the Environmental Protection Agency.