Students discover high toxic levels

February 5, 2008 6:39:55 AM PST
High school students testing for environmental toxins uncovered what they say are exceptionally high levels of lead in their West Oakland school. They're asking for help and more sophisticated equipment to uncover the source of the lead contamination, which is, for now, a mystery.

"We used pie plate samples and we put them outside of our classroom and collected dust that fell out of the air and we took samples from a neighbor's house and took it to the lab and it's high in lead," says Deanna Young, McClymonds High School.

Students at Excel High School in the McClymonds Learning Complex were stunned to see elevated lead levels last Spring. They re-tested this fall and found even more lead in their latest data.

Lead levels in the classroom were 17 to 54 times the EPA's safe level for indoor surfaces. They also found traces of mercury, nickel, and arsenic in their classroom.

"The heavy metals are out there. They're not just at ground level but they're up as high as three stories and now we need to bring in more sophisticated equipment so that we can use wind direction and operational information to find out what the sources of this lead and other heavy metals might be," says Denny Larsons, Global Community Monitor Director

Students look out their class window to freeways, the port, heavy industry, and metal recycling facilities. However, the Bay Area air quality management district told ABC7 News that those are all unlikely sources.

They say current sources of lead contamination in California are small prop planes and lead residue and not lead from decades-old paint and gasoline that still circulates in the current environment.

"The city can certainly press the Air Quality Management District to provide us with all the data on potential facilities that might be causing problems," says Nancy Nadel, Oakland City Council

The students have filed a proposal to use portable air-quality testing equipment to zero in on lead levels in and around their school.

"People are already getting killed over stupid stuff, gangs, and violence. We don't need lead and polluted air killing us too," says Jamelah Issac, McClymonds High School.


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