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Lead paint risk found in hundreds of NYC public schools


Chipping paint (bagi1998/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

More than 900 classrooms across 300 city schools have potentially dangerous chipping lead paint, according to new data released by the Education Department.

The data, initially reported by Chalkbeat, is the first complete, public count of classrooms that might be exposing kids to the paint flakes.

An Education Department spokesperson said custodians regularly check for peeling paint in classrooms, but after a June WNYC investigation found lead exposure in four elementary schools, the city did its first tally of all inspections in the almost 800 schools built before 1985 with young children.

Inspectors first flagged spots with deteriorating paint, then tested that paint for lead content. Lead-based paint is generally considered a risk only when it starts peeling or chipping.

Officials said they will repair or paint over the problem spots by the beginning of the school year, and will contact principals asking them to reach out to families at affected schools in the coming days.

Lead poisoning, which often comes from ingesting paint dust or flakes, can have harmful effects on brain development, especially in children under six.

The complete list of schools and classrooms with possible exposure is posted in a public database. Education Department officials will now require custodians to log observations of chipping paint at least three times a year, and created a website for parents to make complaints.

A separate inspection also revealed that water with unsafe lead levels was flowing through at least one faucet in 80% of the more than 500 buildings tested last school year. A spokesperson said the flagged faucets had been repaired in all but 12 schools.

“Our schools are safe, and this summer we’ve enhanced our protocols and strengthened communication with families around the steps we take to prevent lead exposure for kids under six,” said department spokeswoman Miranda Barbot.

A spokesperson for the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which helped develop the approach to monitoring schools, said the new protocols will “help to ensure that schools remain safe.”