Newark starts testing school children for lead poisoning

NEWARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- Voluntary blood tests to check 17,000 students for the presence of lead are starting Thursday after elevated levels of the toxin were found in the drinking water at nearly half of Newark's schools.

This is what it's come to in Newark. Thursday, health workers drew the blood of hundreds of preschoolers, and in the coming weeks 17,000 students will have their blood tested for lead.

The school district is still trying to figure out how bad this really is.

"We just had smoke blown up our behinds. Again," said Donna Jackson, a grandparent.

At Ivy Hill Elementary, parents peppered administrators with questions. It's one of 30 schools where the district found lead levels on average nearly seven times the acceptable limit.

"You have concerns, you have questions, but these questions aren't being answered," a parent said.

But district administrators revealed they don't even know how many faucets and water fountains they even own. So far they've only tested 10 taps per school, at fewer than half their schools.

"Find out how many faucets we have, how many sinks we have, what's leaking. We don't give a damn what's leaking, we want the water situation abated," Jackson said.

It is a daunting mission. Starting Saturday, the school system will first catalogue and then test every single tap at every single school, 67 in all.

But in a district with century old buildings and miles of lead pipe, parents say they don't understand why the problem hasn't been addressed until now.

Jackson says she understands the cost of removing lead pipes, but why haven't water filters been changed, in some cases for years?

"This is the one thing we can prevent is lead poisoning and we're not going to do all we can to stop this?" Jackson said.

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