Doctors suggest lead testing for Detroit kids

Posted at 7:19 PM, Apr 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-15 22:02:37-04

We told you the disturbing results. The water from one drinking fountain tested at a Detroit school had levels of lead 100 times higher than what’s considered unacceptable by the U.S. EPA.

That school was Ronald Brown Academy. Eighteen other schools also had concerning levels.

These were unflushed samples. More testing is needed to determine the severity of the situation. The school is working with the health department on a remediation plan.

The district says it is possible it could be resolved with a policy of flushing the water system regularly or by replacing water fixtures.

Now parents are asking, what do we do?

7 Action News spoke to Kanta Bhambhani, M.D., the Director of Children’s Hospital Lead Clinic.  She said concerned parents should talk to their child's doctor about whether or not lead testing is needed.

She said children six or younger exposed to contaminated water are most at risk. Their parents should definitely have them screened for lead poisoning.

As for why younger kids are in more danger?

"The reason is because if they ingest a large amount of lead they absorb about 50%, where an older child would absorb less than 5%," said Dr. Bhambhani.

Dr. Bhambhani says parents should not look for symptoms before testing. By the time symptoms of lead poisoning are apparent, the lead  poisoning is severe.

Good nutrition helps fight lead poisoning. If a child is deficient in calcium, iron, or vitamin C, their body will absorb more lead. 

One concern raised by parents is the safety of hand washing if lead levels are high. Dr. Bhambhani says lead is not absorbed through the skin, but by ingestion.

Dr. Kanta Bhambhani says Detroit is a city that is considered high risk for lead. It is filled with old houses with lead paint. Soil is sometimes found to be contaminated.

Even if your child doesn't go to a school impacted, testing for lead levels may be a good idea. Young kids are more likely to absorb lead from paint chips, old houses, or even soil, than from contaminated water.

Children's Hospital of Detroit says cost should not prevent parents from testing their children.  Its Gateway to Health Clinic can help.