Health officials say students showed lower levels of lead in second test

Investigations

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County health officials addressed the county commission Wednesday, explaining the results from the lead testing conducted on students and staff after Shelby County schools found dangerous levels of lead in water sources in 35 schools.

Results showed nine students had elevated levels of lead in their blood. Health officials say the 9 students were retested and their levels were within normal range or zero.

The health department did not mention the re-testing in the final results we received through an open records request. 

We asked for the final results six different times starting in February 2020 and finally received them on Friday. We asked the health department for an interview on Friday, but they told us they would not comment until after Wednesday’s meeting.

Wednesday afternoon, we asked the health department and the county attorney’s office why the final results they provided did not mention the re-testing of the 9 students. It said the re-testing results were lumped into countywide data.

Meanwhile, SCS, who also didn’t comment until today, called the report “encouraging news.”

District representatives have stated before that all water sources with high levels of lead were shut off and removed, and they’re working with the University of Memphis engineering Department on a remediation plan.

The CDC and World Health Organization say no level of lead is safe.

Commissioner Edmund Ford, who worked to find the funding for the lead testing, stressed it shouldn’t have taken this long to get answers.

“Though I’m not a fan of the media, there was one lady, Ms. Jessica Gertler, kept inquiring on that. I’m assuming you got a lot of questions from her. It’s unfortunate it took two years to get here,” Ford said.

Shelby County Health Department said 39 tests were inconclusive or had blood clotting, and they’ve sent letters to parents and asked if they wanted to be re-tested.

WREG requested the re-testing results. We will let you know when we receive them.

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