14 Knox Co. Schools test positive for dangerous amounts of lead

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The Knox County School System confirmed 14 Knox County Schools tested positive for dangerous amounts of lead.

Water fountain / Source: Photo: Pixabay/MGN

The Tennessee Department of Health released the results on just how much lead was found in the water sources at Knox County Schools.

KCS spokesperson Carly Harrington confirmed that 946 water outlets were tested at 36 schools and 21 had levels exceeding 20 parts per billion.

Harrington said there have been no facilities tested that have a facility wide reading above 20ppb.

Schools that tested positive

Beaumont Magnet (2 outlets tested positive)

- Bubbler in teacher work room tested positive and was removed
- Bubbler in room 105 tested positive and was replaced (had 151 ppb)

Karns Elementary (3 outlet tested positive)

- Bubbler in room 417 tested positive and was replaced (had 33.7 ppb)
- Bubbler in lab tested positive, has been taken offline and will be replaced (had 23.2 ppb)
- Bubbler in room 108 tested positive and was replaced ( had 75.7 ppb)

Dogwood Elementary (1 outlet tested positive)

- Bubbler in room 229 tested positive and was replaced (had 57.9 ppb)

South-Doyle Middle (1 outlet tested positive)

- Sprayer in the kitchen tested positive and was removed

Bluegrass Elementary (1 outlet tested positive)

- Bubbler in room 252 tested positive and was removed

South-Doyle High School (1 outlet tested positive)

- Sink in the kitchen tested positive and was replaced (had 33.8 ppb)

Sequoyah Elementary (1 outlet tested positive)

- Fountain tested positive and was removed (had 78.0 ppb)

Gap Creek Elementary (3 outlets tested positive)

- Fountain tested positive, was removed and will be replaced (had 26.0 ppb)

Bonny Kate Elementary (1 outlet tested positive)

- Bubbler in room 318 tested positive, was taken offline and will be replaced (had 49.3 ppb)

Corryton Elementary (1 outlet tested positive)

- Sink faucet in the kitchen tested positive and was replaced (had 22.3 ppb)

East Knox Elementary (2 outlets tested positive)

- Sink faucet in the teacher work room tested positive and was replaced (had 24.7 ppb)
- Sink faucet in the kitchen was removed (had 91.2 ppb)

Mooreland Heights Elementary (2 outlets tested positive)

- Bubbler in room 225 tested positive and was taken offline (had 76.1 ppb)

Ridgedale Alternative (1 outlet tested positive)

- Bubbler in room 203 tested positive, was taken offline and will be replaced (had 32.2 ppb)

Fair Garden Family Center (1 outlet tested positive)

- Bubbler in room 20 tested positive and was replaced (had 22.9 ppb)

"Anytime when you talk about the safety of your children certainly its concerning," Karns Elementary parent Dave Rains said.

East Knox was among schools with the highest levels detected.

Harrington said two water sources contained excessive levels at East Knox County Elementary School: the kitchen faucet and the sink faucet in the teacher workroom. Harrington said the kitchen faucet was not utilized in the past two years and was removed. The sink in the teacher's workroom was replaced and is scheduled for retesting on August 23.

Harrington said parents and guardians with children at the 14 schools mentioned above were sent a letter to homes on August 19. Harrington said the compromised outlets have been replaced and follow up tested to make sure lead levels are "compliant with federal guidelines."

Tests revealed a lot of elevated lead levels were found in faucets that aren't used at all or are rarely used. As such, Harrington said these were water sources kids would be unlikely to drink from.

Parents who are concerned should call their pediatrician, Harrington said. Guardians can also reach out to Knox County Schools and get lead level testing results.

"No systems perfect and obviously that's why they are checking, but if were going to start seeing levels this high I certainly think that we should check it more once every two years," Rains said.

The Mayo Clinic said "Initially, lead poisoning can be hard to detect--even people who seem healthy can have high blood levels of lead. Signs and symptoms usually don't appear until dangerous amounts have accumulated."

Signs of lead poisoning

In children

- Developmental delay
- Learning difficulties
- Irritability
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Sluggishness
- Fatigue
- Abdominal pain
- Constipation
- Hearing loss
- Seizures
- Eating things that aren't food.

In newborns

- Premature birth
- Lower weight
- Slowed growth

In adults

- High blood pressure
- Joint and muscle pain
- Difficulties with memory or concentration
- Headache
- Abdominal pain
- Mood disorders
- Reduced sperm count and abnormal sperm
- Miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth in pregnant people

The Mayo Clinic says a healthy diet can help keep children safe from lead. "Children especially need enough calcium, vitamin C and iron in their diets to help keep lead from being absorbed."

Representative Rick Staples commended on the report saying, “I applaud and appreciate all LEA’s that have taken steps to be in compliance with HB0631. The purpose of this historically significant piece of legislation was to safeguard the health of our children, support safer schools and to promote shared information. Prior to this bipartisan bill, Tennessee had no mechanism in place that would test lead levels in the water used during meal preparation and drinking fountains. Since January 1st, 2019, we now have in place measures to do just that. I’m grateful to have sponsored this bill and thankful that the process in now working.”

Staples says the letters sent to parents are evidence that the law is being taken seriously.

“Obviously, Knox County cares about our young people and will take action on this issue,” he said.

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