Sunday, March 27, 2016

This and That

By my rough count, probably half of Seattle Schools' school buildings are probably pre-1986.  That's a key date, according to this NY Times story on schools nationwide worrying about lead in the water.

Congress could easily have cracked down on lead in schools. In fact, it once did. The 1988 Lead Contamination Control Act required schools to scrap lead-lined water coolers, test drinking water and remedy any contamination they found. But a federal appeals court struck down part of the law affecting schools in 1996. And while some states have devised their own lead-testing rules, federal lawmakers have yet to revisit the issue.

And while the utilities test their water, virtually all lead contamination occurs inside schools — in lead pipes, water-cooler coils and linings, and in leaded-metal fountains and taps. 


Schools built before 1986, when an amendment to the Safe Drinking Water Act banned lead plumbing, pose the greatest hazard. Fountains may be fed water through lead pipes commonly used in the early 20th century. Older water coolers may have lead linings and components.
What about new buildings?  The district has spent BTA money on new water lines but...
But even newer buildings can face a threat. Under industry pressure, Congress defined “lead-free” in the amendment as no more than 8 percent lead. Plumbing hardware like faucets and connectors often contained that much lead until 2013, when the permissible level fell to near zero.
Los Angeles school officials learned of the 8-percent rule the hard way. In the 131 schools built over the last decade, the district installed thousands of water fountains with long-lasting brass fittings to reduce maintenance costs. They later discovered that the leaded brass fittings tainted the water in some fountains beyond the E.P.A.’s lead standard.

The district’s $19.8 million lead initiative seeks, in part, to correct that. “The approach we’re taking now is to get rid of anything with a brass fitting,” Roger Finstad, the district’s maintenance and operations director, said.
What about flushing the pipes?
That can be ineffective, because the levels at any fountain or tap can swing wildly as residue breaks loose in lead plumbing. Dr. Edwards, the Virginia Tech specialist, recalled testing a single tap 10 times. Eight tests judged the water perfectly safe. The other two showed “astronomical amounts of lead,” he said, “like eating five to 10 paint chips.”
Another interesting story from the NY Times was about one of the film offerings in the upcoming Tribeca Film Festival which was started and continues to be run by actor Robert De Niro.  It was a documentary film called Vaxxed.  The film festival was going to run the documentary which about one of the doctors who did a study- now discredited - who said autism and vaccinations had a link.  Initially, Mr. DeNiro said this:
“Grace and I have a child with autism,” he wrote, referring to his wife, Grace Hightower De Niro, “and we believe it is critical that all of the issues surrounding the causes of autism be openly discussed and examined. In the 15 years since the Tribeca Film Festival was founded, I have never asked for a film to be screened or gotten involved in the programming. However this is very personal to me and my family and I want there to be a discussion, which is why we will be screening VAXXED.”

On Friday, Robert De Niro, one of the festival’s founders, said in a statement issued through the festival’s publicists that he supported the plan to show the movie next month, although he said he was “not personally endorsing the film,” nor was he against vaccinations.
What had been troubling was not so much the content of the documentary, indeed, the point of most documentaries IS to create, if not provoke, lively discussion.  What was troubling is that the film festival's own documentation made no mention of the doctor's issues in the medical community or that the study had been thrown out.   

But after protests from the medical community and filmmaking community, Mr. De Niro changed his mind:
In a statement, Robert De Niro, a founder of the festival, wrote: “My intent in screening this film was to provide an opportunity for conversation around an issue that is deeply personal to me and my family. But after reviewing it over the past few days with the Tribeca Film Festival team and others from the scientific community, we do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for.”
Of interest is that the other doctor involved in the study got his medical license back after his insurance company paid for legal fees.  The other doctor's insurance company did not.  Whether that means one or both of them were in the right about their study was not established.  Thanks to reader, Sahila.

Big news out of England as political parties find unity in fighting off privitization of public schools. From The Guardian:
The leaders of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties in local government have united to demand that the government drops controversial plans to force all schools to become academies by 2022 in a massive blow to its flagship education policy.

In a letter to the Observer, the parties join forces with independent councillors across England against proposals that they say are contrary to the wishes of many parents and teachers, would be hugely expensive, and fail to address the real problems in the schools’ system.

The council leaders say there is “no evidence” that academies perform better than council-maintained schools and insist that the focus must be on delivering the best education for children rather than the legal structures within which schools have to work.

2 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

I think we all remember the big kerfuffle over lead in the water in Seattle Public Schools a few years ago. As a result a lot of water fountains were shut down, a lot of schools had bottled water for a long time, and a lot of pipes were replaced.

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