NDEE reports on lead levels in Nebraska schools & childcare centers

It’s a problem that can have dangerous consequences for those six and under.
Published: Feb. 7, 2022 at 9:35 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - For the vast majority of Nebraska schools and child care centers, the water is safe from lead. But according to a recent DHHS report, that’s not the case everywhere.

It’s a problem that can have dangerous consequences for those six and under. That report showed 11 facilities in Lancaster County with enough lead to raise a flag. It was broken down in severity, from yellow to orange to red.

Calls 10/11 NOW made in the newsroom on Monday showed a variety of progress has been made.

More than 1,1,00 samples were collected from Health Departments across the state.

“Main adverse health effects is its a neurotoxin,” said Sue Dempsey, Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy.

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy said any level of lead is a concern.

“It impacts the developing nervous system so that would be kids between zero to six, so elementary school and childcare facilities where kids spent their time,” said Dempsey. “For older children, it’s not as big an issue, same for adults, depends on the level for sure”

Roughly half had at least some trace, and 72 were flagged yellow, orange or red.

NDEE said the biggest concern starts when the level gets above 15 micrograms per liter. Only 17, or about 1.5% of the result, were in that red zone.

“We don’t have any legal recourse to go in the school and remove it but obviously they’re going to want to do that to protect the kids and their school,” said Dempsey.

If that happens, the first step is to retest. That’s what they did at Bryan Health’s Child Development Center, which was flagged red for two sinks. The results came in April and the hospital said the retest showed no elevated levels. Another test was done on Monday, which confirmed no elevated levels.

“The health and safety of our employees and their families is a top priority and we’ll continue to test these locations twice annually to assure safety,” said a Bryan Health Spokesperson.

Dempsey said this is an ongoing free program for schools and centers, public or private. Those facilities can request testing through the NDEE.

Flagged locations were across the board, some replaced their sinks while others had no idea about the results until they were informed by 10/11 NOW.

The lead sampling data can be found on DHHS’s website: https://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/Lead-Data.aspx.

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