Clock Ticking for Lead Testing in All New York Elementary Schools

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A new measure, signed this week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, requires all New York state schools to test water for lead contamination. It's a persistent problem in Buffalo and across Erie County.

Doctors say lead exposure can cause neurological impairments in children.

"Water quality is key," said Cuomo, D-New York. "The more we learn about our water, in all different dimensions, the more we have reason to be concerned, frankly.

"We want to start with our children, make sure our children are safe. That starts with testing the water that is actually in the schools and coming out of the fountains."

Elementary schools must complete lead testing by the end of September. Schools with older children have until the end of October. Buildings found to have high levels of lead will have to implement plans to fix the problem. 

"If they have a financial hardship the state will help them," Cuomo said.

In May, Erie County officials and city leaders rolled out a new initiative to tackle the lead contamination issue affecting area children. Dr. Raul Vazquez spoke at the conference and brought attention to the serious impact lead poisoning has on young children especially those in the inner-city.   

"Kids that come in that may have all of these developmental delays and all these other findings but the only way to really know that they have lead is by doing yearly testing of lead levels. Some of the kids that may not be coming to doctors' offices are going to school. Sometimes that may be the perfect place to actually pick them up." 

Lead testing in schools will be required every five years.

Cuomo's office says New York state will be the first in the nation to conduct statewide lead inspections in schools.

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