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Number Of Chicago Public Schools With High Lead Levels Ticks Up To 12

High lead levels have been found in the drinking water at 11 additional Chicago public schools, according to new reports.

After a pilot program found high levels of lead in three water fountains at Tanner Elementary on the city's South Side last month, Chicago Public Schools officials announced plans to test the water at every school in the district.

The district is currently testing water at schools built prior to 1986 as those sites are more likely to have lead service lines. The district is also testing the water at schools with prekindergarten programs. Water in Chicago schools had not been previously tested for the heavy metal before the discovery at Tanner Elementary.

Thus far, testing has been done at 156 of the 324 school buildings that have pre-k programs and were built before 1986. Results have come in for 58 of the schools and 12, or about 20 percent, were found to have higher lead levels than the EPA's admissible standard of 15 parts per billion, or .015 milligrams per liter, according to the Chicago Tribune.

"Given heightened awareness nationally about lead exposure for children and to provide parents with timely information, Chicago Public Schools is taking proactive steps to ensure that our children's drinking water is safe across all schools by testing every school in the district," CPS spokesman Michael Passman said via statement.

Last week, water faucets and fountains were shut down at Reilly Elementary on the city's Northwest Side after test results showed high levels of lead contamination. Water coolers were installed at the school and additional testing is being done due to "possible extenuating circumstances that could have compromised the testing accuracy." District officials say the school's water supply could have been shut off in the days leading up to the testing, which could impact results. CPS leaders have not provided details on the exact levels of lead found in the water that has already been tested.

Of the available data, the following schools have tested as having higher lead levels than what is permissible by the federal government:

South Side:

  • Fernwood Elementary
  • Harvard Elementary
  • Esmond Elementary
  • Tanner Elementary


Northwest Side:

  • Brentano Elementary
  • Josephine Locke Elementary
  • Budlong Elementary
  • Reilly Elementary


North Side:

  • Peirce School Of International Studies
  • Lasalle II Language Academy


West Side:

  • Perez Elementary
  • Beidler Elementary


CPS lead testing results can be found here.

Image: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli


Lead paint is a far more important and extensive problem than lead in water.

Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Julie Morita reminds parents that lead-based paint is a greater threat to children and that her office works with families to provide testing and resources.

"We don't believe water is primary source of lead poisoning among children in the city of Chicago. Our numbers reveal that," she explained. "We know that in the 1990s when there was a lot of lead-based paint that was still around, there was a lot of hazard around, that's when we had the highest rates of lead poisoning in children. Currently, we're talking about less than one in a hundred children who have lead poisoning, that's because of our attention on lead-based paint."


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