Investigators find lead paint at Long Island pre-K after student tests positive for poisoning

BALDWIN, Long Island (WABC) -- A pre-K program on Long Island is now on alert after a young student tested positive for lead poisoning.

The student attends the Uniondale School District's Shubert School, a pre-k building located on DeMott Avenue in Baldwin.

The child had a blood test with a lead level above the 10-microgram-per-deciliter threshold for lead, which triggered a health department inspection of the school.

"Peeling paint was noted at the exterior front entrance of the school," said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. "Some of these paint chips did test positive for lead."

The county executive also said approximately 180 letters will go out to students' parents out of an "abundance of caution."

"We cannot say for sure that these paint chips are the source of the elevated lead level poisoning," said Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein, the Nassau County health commissioner. "We don't know for a fact that the child we are investigating was eating these paint chips."

However, all tests at the child's home were negative, and inspectors found the paint chips outside the building, where the preschoolers play. No problems were found on the inside of the school.

"What we are saying is, we found a hazard. We want the parents of other children who go to the school to know that their children might have been exposed, and we want them to discuss it with their medical providers," Dr. Eisenstein said.

Dr. Eisenstein also noted that lead paint often tastes sweet "like candy," so the problem is that kids will "go back for more."

Lead poisoning, often the result of swallowing or breathing in paint dust or chips can cause numerous neurological issues in young children, including learning disabilities, behavioral problems and, in the worst case scenario, brain damage.

New York State requires lead testing in children, ages one and two, and if results are positive, children are assessed until age six. Lead can also come from toys, jewelry, foreign cosmetics, imported food and spices and home goods.

In a statement, Uniondale School District said it was working proactively to identify potential sources of exposure.

"The Baldwin School District has primed the affected area and is actively working with the Nassau County Board of Health, which has deemed the area safe for students, on a long-term abatement plan to limit the possibility of future incidents. Though the area has been determined safe by the Department of Health, the Uniondale Union Free School District has decided to use an alternative entrance to the building for students," the statement read.

In Nassau County last year, health officials identified over 50 children with lead poisoning. Officials are urging parents to remain vigilant. Anyone with questions can call the county's lead hotline number at 516-227-9665.

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