Health experts suggest medical tests for students of schools with lead in water

Data pix.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — One day after revealing that two dozen Shelby County Schools showed elevated levels of lead in their water, experts say the lead can cause a myriad of health problems.

Health experts said there’s a wide range of severity and symptoms when dealing with lead poisoning, with anything from mild nausea and headaches to developmental problems. But with the levels found in the two dozen SCS locations, doctors are optimistic for student and faculty safety.

“With the amount of lead that they’re talking about, 1% above the EPA threshold, the likelihood that those children ingested toxic amounts of lead is low," said Dale Criner, medical director of St. Francis Hospital Bartlett. "There’s still a possibility, but it’s low."

SCS has already begun turning off and removing the faulty fountains and sinks from its schools, which is the only true way to ensure a clean flush of the system.

“Those fountains were turned off this week," SCS Risk Manager Anthony Krone. "That’s when we received notifications of the testing results, as soon as the testing results were provided.”

“Any time that we have a child that we suspect may be exposed, the very first thing that you do is remove the offending agent. So in this case, we stop and turn off and remove the fountains," Criner said.

While the levels in the SCS buildings might not be high enough to press the panic button, there could still be children and adults that have been affected. There’s a simple but necessary solution.

“Simply go to your primary care providers office and get a blood test, get a lab test," Criner said. "It’s a very quick and easy test. Many times it can be done as a pin prick to the finger.”

Doctors said mild lead poisoning matching the levels found in SCS schools could be followed by symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea and constipation. If students or faculty experience any of those, they should proceed with caution.

“It’s certainly reason in this situation to be tested, for sure," Criner said. "Let’s not underplay the seriousness of lead poisoning, so these children do need to be tested and even the adults that possibly could have been exposed.”

The Shelby County Health Department announced Friday that it will have free blood testing for lead for affected students. The lead screening and testing will be available at all Shelby County Health Department clinics (listed below) during regular business hours, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

  • Cawthon Public Health Clinic — 1000 Haynes, 38114
  • Collierville Public Health Clinic (Tues. & Thurs. only) — 167 Washington St., 38017
  • Hickory Hill Public Health Clinic — 6590 Kirby Center Cove, 38118
  • Immunization Clinic — 814 Jefferson, Rm. 216, 38105
  • Millington Public Health Clinic — 8225 Highway 51 North, 38053
  • Shelby Crossing Public Health Clinic — 6170 Macon Road, 38133
  • Southland Mall Public Health Clinic — 1287 Southland Mall, 38116

Below is the full list of schools included in the map above that had at least one water source test positive for lead levels above the EPA threshold.

  • Booker T. Washington High School
  • Berclair Elementary
  • Central High School
  • Charjean Elementary School
  • Chickasaw Middle School
  • Double Tree Elementary School
  • Douglass (pre-k)
  • Douglass Elementary/Middle
  • Egypt Elementary
  • Gardenview Elementary School
  • Havenview Middle School
  • Idlewild Elementary
  • Keystone Elementary
  • Kingsbury Elementary
  • Kingsbury Vocational
  • Raleigh Egypt High School
  • Ridgeway Middle
  • Sheffield High School
  • South Park Elementary
  • Treadwell Middle
  • Westside Elementary
  • Whitehaven Elementary School
  • Whitehaven High School
  • Wooddale High School
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