Lead found in Sarasota schools: Should you be worried?

Higher concentrations of lead found in three Sarasota Co. schools

SARASOTA (WWSB) - Newly released test results show levels of lead above federal recommendations at McIntosh and Venice middle schools, and Englewood elementary.

The state doesn't require schools to test their supply for water but Sarasota County Schools went ahead and tested 19 schools, finding high concentrations of lead in some buildings and classrooms. But the district says they don't believe there's a need for parents to be concerned and that they are trying to be "very proactive at this point."

But some parents are worried. The OHC Engineering Firm, based in Tampa, worked with the district to test schools built before 1986 when it was still legal to use lead fixtures in public water systems. Faucets used to provide water for cooking at McIntosh and Venice middle schools and drinking fountains at one building at Englewood elementary found minute traces of lead.

"We don’t have anything out there that we’ve scene come back from our pre-1986 buildings that say, 'Oh my God, they’re loaded with lead,'" said Jody Dumas with Sarasota County Schools.

Dumas assures that the district is taking immediate action, including replacing the faucets and providing bottled water to the students in the contaminated building of Englewood elementary.

The district says its going to begin flushing the water systems in all schools at least once per year and annually test the water in buildings built before 1986, adding it will take the extra steps to test newer buildings if necessary.

"We want to make sure if there's something we need to be doing for the health and safety of our students that were doing it," said Dumas.

The district also tested the following schools and no lead was found:

  • Alta Vista Elementary
  • Ashton Elementary
  • Bay Haven Elementary
  • Booker High School
  • Brentwood Elementary
  • Fruitville Elementary
  • Garden Elementary
  • Glenallen Elementary
  • Gocio Elementary
  • Lakeview Elementary
  • Riverview High School
  • Sarasota High School
  • Southside Elementary
  • Triad Alternative School
  • Venice High School
  • Wilkinson Elementary

And what about Manatee County? The school district tells ABC7 that local utility companies already collect samples regularly in schools and they test their well water every five years.

Lead poisoning harms children between the ages of 0- to 6-years-old and unborn children by affecting the nervous system, including slowing growth and developing, damaging speech and hearing, causing behavioral problems, and making it hard for children to pay attention and learn. Most children who have lead poisoning do not look or act sick.

Pediatrician Dr. Ashfaq Fatmi also said the symptoms don’t show up right away. “Symptoms appear very late when the level goes up to a toxic level, so we cannot wait until then because the damage will be irreversible.”

The Centers for Disease Control says the only way you can check for lead poisoning is through a blood test. The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County says concerned parents should take their child to their primary care physician to get tested.

Though lead testing is currently not required, a Florida state senator is looking to change that. Senator Lauren Book has proposed requiring all Florida schools to test buildings built before 1986 and filtering their water.

“If you fix the source, then everything will be fixed,” Dr. Fatmi said.

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