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Tests Show 82% Increase in Blood-Lead Levels for Davis First Grader

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Tests Show 82% Increase in Blood-Lead Levels for Davis First Grader

May 10, 2016 - 22:11
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NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- A first grade student at George M. Davis Elementary School in New Rochelle, NY experienced a significant increase in blood-lead levels within several months of enrolling at the school in September 2014, according to court documents obtained by Talk of the Sound.

Blood-lead levels are measured in micrograms per deciliter (µg/dl). In 2012, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention defined a reference level of 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) to identify children with elevated blood lead levels. These children are exposed to more lead than most children. Dr. Adrienne-Weiss recently told the New Rochelle District-Wide Health and Safety Committee there is no safe level of lead in the blood. She said that by law all children are tested at ages 1 and 2.

The Davis school recently tested positive for elevated levels of lead in drinking water but school officials have refused to recommend blood-level testing to determine whether students may have elevated levels of lead in their blood as a result of the elevated lead levels in the water at Davis School.  The court records indicate that at least one Davis first grader experienced an increase of 7 µg/dl; even for a student with no lead at all in their system, an increase of 7 µg/dl would push them over the CDC threshold level of 5 µg/dl.

Two brothers, now ages 7 and 4, recently settled a lawsuit against a New Rochelle landlord. The court found the landlord knew of lead paint in the apartment but failed to remove the paint. The lawsuit was based in large part on an investigation by the Westchester County Department of Health. As a result of the case, the two brothers have an extensive blood-lead level testing history and, in the case, of the older brother, a testing history that covers a period of time when he was enrolled as a student at Davis school. 

The two brothers offer an unfortunate but unique and useful set of data, where the younger brother serves as the “control” for the older brother.

In June, 2012, the older brother had a blood-lead level of 3 µg/dl. After moving into a new apartment in New Rochelle, the older brother was found to have have a blood-lead level of 29 µg/dl, n September 2013.

In October 2013, Dr. Stanley Rothman, a pediatric neuroloist at Mt. Sinai Hospital, found the child suffered from neuromotor immaturities and elevated blood lead level that "increase his risk for certain learning disabilities". He urged immediate action to help the child.

“I recommend comprehensive individual psychological and educational evaluations by the school's psychologist and special education personnel including occupational therapy, and speech pathology, to facilitate individual educational planning through the Committee on Special Education now.”(emphasis added)

Upon the basis of this letter, Victoria Rashbaum of Barnard School made a referral to the Committee on Special Education. During the CSE meeting the child's elevated blood-lead levels was discussed but the child’s resulting Individualized Education Plan did not list the medical records as an educational record that was used in preparing the IEP. These records should have been listed.

Blood-lead level testing over the next two years saw the older brother’s blood-level peak at 35 µg/dl. Lead testing by the Westchester County Department of Health showed lead paint dust existed at high levels in the family's apartment. At the recommendation of county health officials, the family moved into a new apartment in March 2014. The new apartment was evaluated and cleared by WCDOH. By July 2014, the older brother’s blood/lead level had dropped to 11 µg/dl.

The child's younger brother, age one at the time, was tested in May 2013 as required for children at that age. The younger brother had a blood-lead level of 12 µg/dl. In March 2014, the younger brother's blood-lead level had increased to 15 µg/dl, at which point the family moved with the two brothers from the contaminated apartment into a new apartment. Like his older brother, the younger brother's blood-lead levels began to drop upon leaving the old apartment, reaching 6 µg/dl by July 2014.

So, by the summer, both boys were showing signs of improvement.

In September 2014, the older brother enrolled at Davis School and was assigned to classroom #1. By law, the child’s IEP was provided to Davis staff. The younger brother remained at home.

Within 5 months, in January 2015, the older brother’s blood-lead level jumped to 20 µg/dl and remained high over the course of the school year (15 µg/dl in February 2015 and 18 µg/dl in May 2015). While the older brother's blood-lead level had been increasing while in classroom #1 at Davis, the younger brother's blood-level continued to drop, reaching a low of 4 µg/dl in May 2015, at which point testing stopped because the younger brother was below the 5 µg/dl CDC threshold.

Two months after being out of Davis School for the summer, in August 2015, the child's blood-lead level had dropped from a high of 20 µg/dl down to 13 µg/dl, a 65% decrease.

In September 2015, the child was placed in room #3 at Davis School. The child's blood-lead levels remained lower.

That same month, May 2016, the school district made public the results of water-lead testing at Davis School. Classroom #1 had a water-lead level of 111 parts per billion. Classroom #3 had a water-lead level of 7.91 ppb.

The parents are concerned that the 82% increase in their child's blood-lead level during his first 5 months in classroom #1 at Davis, a room that was later found to have dangerously high levels of lead in the water, may have been the source of lead in the blood that caused the dramatic spike in their child's blood-lead level. Those levels remained high while in classroom #1 but within two months of leaving classroom #1, the child's blood-lead level dropped 65%, from 20 µg/dl to 13 µg/dl and having spent the last year in classroom #3, a classroom with a water-lead level of 7.91 ppb, the child's blood-lead level is even lower.

This divergence in blood-lead levels among two siblings, living in the same home environments but one spending school days in classroom #1 at Davis while the other was home, has further increased the parent's concern that the older child's blood-lead level spike over the 2014-2015 school year may be related to ingesting lead from drinking water at Davis School.