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Water Testing

LATEST UPDATE FROM THE INGHAM COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT:

The Ingham County Health Department clarified when to seek a blood lead test for your student if you would like to have them tested.

“A blood lead test can tell if a person has had recent or ongoing exposures to lead. While the lead in the body will decrease gradually after exposure stops, those who have concerns regarding recent or ongoing lead exposure should receive a blood lead test.” 

Our communications reflect the guidance we received from the environmental health and childhood lead experts at the health department and from the environmental testing company ERG. We continue to share and seek feedback on our communications with them throughout the process. As a district, we recognize where our expertise ends and where we need their support.

The following information is from the Ingham County Health Department:

Testing for Lead in the Body

A blood lead test can tell if a person has had recent or ongoing exposures to lead. As  explained by the CDC, “lead quickly enters the blood and can harm a child's health.  Once a child swallows lead, their blood lead level rises. Once a child's exposure to lead  stops, the amount of lead in the blood decreases gradually. The child's body releases  some of the lead through urine, sweat, and feces. Lead is also stored in bones. It can  take decades for lead stored in the bones to decrease. Many things affect how a child's  body handles exposure to lead, including the following: (1) Child's age, (2) Nutritional  status, (3) Source of lead exposure, (4) Length of time the child was exposed, and (5)  Presence of other underlying health conditions. Lead in blood represents only a portion  of the total amount of lead present in the body. However, a blood lead test is the best  way to assess a person's exposure to lead.” 

Timing of Lead Testing 

Prior communications were sent to parents stating that “the blood test is accurate only  28 days after exposure to lead.” We want to clarify that statement. Lead in the body  will decrease gradually after exposure stops; nevertheless, we recommend that  those who have concerns regarding recent or potential ongoing lead exposure, 

receive a blood lead test. This recommendation has not changed. (Please see testing  information below). 

Type of Lead Testing Recommended 

Talk to your healthcare provider about blood lead testing. Both MDHHS and CDC  recommend testing blood for lead exposure. Urine testing is not the standard MDHHS  recommended method of lead testing, and is not recommended at this time to  determine recent or ongoing exposures to lead. If you do not have access to a health  care provider, please contact the ICHD Childhood Lead Program at (517) 887-4322.  For more information about the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, see  Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. 

Symptoms and Effects 

Most children with any lead in their blood have no obvious immediate symptoms.  Even so, exposure to lead can seriously harm a child's health and cause well documented adverse effects such as: (1) Damage to the brain and nervous system, (2)  Slowed growth and development, (3) Learning and behavior problems, and (4) Hearing  and speech problems. Lead exposure in children is often difficult to see. Again, most  children have no obvious immediate symptoms. If a child may have been exposed to  lead, parents should talk to their child's healthcare provider. They should discuss  getting a blood lead test.  

Lead Testing Coverage and General Recommendations 

Many private insurance policies cover the cost of testing for lead in the blood. The cost  of blood lead testing for children enrolled in Medicaid is covered by the Centers for  Medicare & Medicaid Services.  

All children who are at risk for lead exposure should be tested for lead poisoning.  Some children are more likely to be exposed to lead than others. These include  children who (1) Live or spend time in a house or building built before 1978, (2) Are  from low-income households, (3) Are immigrants, refugees, or recently adopted from  less developed countries, (4) Live or spend time with someone who works with lead,  or (5) Live or spend time with someone whose hobbies expose them to lead. (CDC) 

Handwashing 

Another area of concern for parents has been exposure to lead through water used for  handwashing. According to MDHHS, hand washing is safe, even if the water  contains lead. Human skin absorbs little, if any, lead from water. EPA estimates  of the potential ingestion of water on the hands from handwashing to be very small. It  is important that children have access to handwashing facilities to prevent transmission  of germs on the hands. (CDC) Soap and water work to remove all types of germs from  hands. (CDC)

Talk with your Doctor 

We recognize that parents may have concerns regarding lead exposure and their child’s  health and development. If you have concerns about your child’s health or  development, talk with your child’s healthcare provider. If you don’t have a primary  care provider, you can contact the Ingham Community Health Centers at 517-887- 4305 to get established as a patient. 

We understand that learning that your child may have been exposed to lead is  concerning, and it is a concern that we take very seriously. We appreciate the  opportunity to clarify our recommendations and provide additional information in  response to parent concerns. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to  contact ICHD.

HISTORY:

To ensure the safety of our drinking water, the district invited the environmental testing firm Triterra to complete strategic sampling in several areas in every school building in 2016.

During the fall of 2023, testing began at Okemos Public Montessori in response to discolored water in two rooms. After results came back with elevated levels of lead, the district took action following recommendations from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), the Environmental Resources Group (ERG), and the Ingham County Health Department (ICHD). Since the first round of OPM testing in October, three more rounds of testing have been done, expanding to the entire building and retesting rooms that previously showed traces of lead.

ERG finished testing all of the schools in the district just before spring break started. We prioritized the youngest students and the oldest buildings to be tested first. Okemos is working to implement Michigan's Clean Water Drinking Act, known at the "Filter First Legislation" ahead of the state's 2025-26 deadline. The state is finalizing guidance on the legislation, scheduled to be released in late April, which will include a Drinking Water Management Plan template, guidance for filters, and training. Results for each school can be viewed on the corresponding pages.

Resources:

- Michigan Department of Health and Human Services -

Lead and Your Health

- Ingham County Health Department -

Lead Testing Form

Lead Testing Team: (517) 887-4479

Lead Questions - ICHD Environmental Division: (517) 887-4312

- Okemos Public Schools -

Health Team: (517) 706-5008

Questions: communication@okemosk12.net

- Michigan Filter First Law -

Filter First Legislation

December 14, 2023 Meeting

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