19,000 Shelby County Schools students need to be tested for possible lead exposure

Local News

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – When it comes to finding lead in all of those schools in Shelby County, authorities say it’s time to take action right now – action to test 19,000 students and 900 faculty members.

Shelby County Commissioners were told, don’t get upset. Chances are mostly everybody is ok.

Shelby County Health Director Alisa Haushalter says out of an abundance of caution, at least 19,000 students should be tested.

“There’s really no safe level of lead for children to be exposed to,” she told commissioners.

It means going to all 35 schools and testing students and faculty. The Health Department offices would be overwhelmed by people needing the testing, so they’re taking their experts and their tests on the road.

“It’s not something we could do in 24 hours,” Dr. Haushalter says, “… but our goal would be to have it done before the end of the school year, ideally by the first quarter of next year. We can monitor to determine how many staff members should go to each school.”

This abundance of caution is going to cost about $80,000. But consider this. That money is only for the first test. If lead is found, the health department has to do a second test.

Commissioner Ed Ford, Junior asked, “I know the money amount you mentioned is about $80,000, but if there’s other testing that has to be done, then that number would go up. Would it go up significantly?”

The response from Dr. Haushalter: “Yes, because confirmatory testing is considerably higher than the $4 per screen.”

Officials with the Shelby County Schools told commissioners the lead came from older water taps and fountains that are not normally used very much.

Since the water doesn’t flow through those pipes very much, the amount of lead in the water can increase. Those are the sources of water that have been shut off.

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