Still no answers from health department on lead testing for SCS students, despite promises

Investigations

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County Health Department said it would address the lead testing it conducted on Shelby County students and staff at the next county commission meeting — but with that meeting came another broken promise.

The health department briefed commissioners on COVID Wednesday afternoon, but despite promises never addressed the lead testing they conducted a year ago.

Shelby County Schools found dangerous levels of lead in water sources in 39 schools in the fall of 2019. Soon after, the health department agreed to test students and staff for possible exposure.

Commissioner Edmund Ford asked for an update on March 5, and was assured of an update on March 8. That didn’t happen.

The health department told us the final report would be presented either March 8, or at the committee meeting Wednesday.

We asked why that didn’t happen, and if they have a new date in mind. They’ve yet to answer those questions.

Chet Kibble with the Memphis and Shelby County Lead Safe Collaborative, a group working to address lead exposure in the city, reiterated what the CDC reports: There is no safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Even low levels of lead have shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention and academic achievement.

“There is no amount that you are going to say that is going to be okay. That’s the part we have to come to grips with,” he said.

Kibble said the report should be released in a timely manner, because it will help explain how widespread the problem is within the community and how we need to address it.

It’s also why we continue to ask for the report for the past several months. Every time, our request is denied from either the county or the school district, stating they don’t have documents or records “responsive to our request.”

Ford said he plans on asking for it again on Monday.

We asked SCS if it asked for the report but it said the health department indicated it would release it publicly at a meeting.

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