Tests show nine cases of lead exposure Level in students, staff called minor by officials

November 26, 1996|By Jean Thompson | Jean Thompson,SUN STAFF

Preliminary tests of students and staff members at Baltimore's Fairmont-Harford High School revealed nine cases of very low lead exposure, too minor to require treatment and impossible to link to building renovations, health officials said yesterday.

"This does not suggest widespread exposure," said Dr. Cecilia T. Davoli of the Kennedy Krieger Institute, which tested the children at the Northeast Baltimore school.

None of the children's exposures would be considered dangerous, Davoli said. Parents are receiving test results this week and, in the nine cases of exposure, offers of monitoring and public health information.

Exposure to lead from paint is relatively common in older Northeastern cities, where an estimated 9 percent of children up to age 6 have been exposed at very low levels, said Davoli. The number and, in most cases, the exposure levels found at Fairmont-Harford High were within doctors' expectations for city youngsters, she said.

Doctors from Johns Hopkins' public health program and Kennedy Krieger tested 145 people, including 50 Head Start students, several pregnant teen-agers and 84 employees who have been in the school during renovations that spread lead dust.

Because the majority tested had normal levels, the health officials do not plan to formally expand the testing to all those at the school -- 525 high school students, 105 preschoolers from a Head Start operated by Morgan State University and staff members.

"At this time, I don't feel the need to go back because of the kind of precautions that will be taken at the school," said Hopkins' Dr. Clifford S. Mitchell.

Lead paint dust was found in three areas occupied by students and staff -- on two windowsills and on top of one locker -- with highest concentrations in the basement where the preschool was situated. The Head Start and other classes have been moved, said Savitri Belizaire, schools spokeswoman.

Teachers at the Northeast Baltimore school still want assurances that the maintenance will be vigilant to prevent further contamination, said Marcia Brown, president of the Baltimore Teachers Union.

Pub Date: 11/26/96

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