Students and faculty to get screenings for lead Fairmount-Harford High offers blood tests after finding contaminated dust

November 14, 1996|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

Students and faculty at a Northeast Baltimore high school will be offered blood tests to detect exposure to lead after dust containing the metal was detected in parts of the building, school officials said yesterday.

Evidence of lead dust was confirmed last month at Fairmount-Harford High School in the 2500 block of Harford Road, a school in the midst of renovations, said Catherine Foster, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore City Public Schools. The faculty was informed Nov. 7, and students and parents were notified in a letter sent yesterday.

Lead screenings, to be conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital, will be offered to faculty and staff at the high school today during a staff development day. Testing will be offered to students later.

The lead dust, which was found in highest concentrations in the basement, apparently was uncovered by workers who are renovating the school.

"We hired a company to go in and test the entire building to find areas that dust had gotten to," Foster said. "When we had identified those areas, we sent in a cleanup crew."

Lead paint dust was found in three areas occupied by students and staff, Foster said, on two window sills and on top of one locker.

A Head Start program operated by Morgan State University had occupied space in the basement where high concentrations of lead paint were discovered during the renovation. But the area received a routine test for lead required for the certification of the Head Start program during the summer, when the program still occupied the space, and no lead was detected. It now meets in another part of the building.

Foster said the lead dust found in occupied areas of the building was not in an area used by Head Start.

Lead is a toxic metal that poses particular hazards to children younger than 6. Swallowing even tiny amounts can cause lifelong learning disabilities and behavioral problems.

"It takes the equivalent of three grains of sugar to poison a young child," said Ruth Ann Norton, executive director the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning.

About 20 parents attended a meeting at the school last night. When they emerged, some said they were unhappy that the school waited until yesterday to notify them and were dissatisfied with the school's response.

"If they have lead inside this building, it should be closed," said Deborah Bee, who has a 17-year-old daughter at the school. "They need to close the school down until they get the problem straightened out."

Goldie Sinclair, whose 4-year-old granddaughter is enrolled in the Head Start program, said she would not wait for the school to provide a blood test. "I'm calling her doctor first thing in the morning," she said.

The renovations continue in the building during the day with the construction area sealed off from the rest of the school, Foster said. Cleanup crews have finished lead abatement on the floors above ground and are continuing the process at night in the basement.

Pub Date: 11/14/96

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