Paint chips with elevated levels of lead were recently discovered at the former Shubert Elementary School in Baldwin after a Uniondale child attending a pre-k program there tested positive for lead poisoning. The age of the child, or how much lead was in their system, was not revealed due to confidentiality laws.
Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein, the county health commissioner, said at a Jan. 8 press conference that the department couldn’t say that the lead paint at Shubert is what led to the child having lead poisoning (they could have been exposed to it elsewhere). No lead paint was discovered at the child’s home. “That’s what brought us to the school,” Eisenstein said.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, a Baldwin Democrat, said the instance highlighted the need for heightened education on lead-filled paint, which can be found in buildings constructed before 1978. “This seems to be a problem of the past, but it’s not,” Curran said.
Other sources of lead poisoning include:
•foreign make-up products;
•foreign medicines; and
•home goods including cookware, picture frames and pottery
Younger children can be exposed to lead paint by ingesting paint chips or breathing in dust particles. State law requires health care providers test children for elevated levels of lead at ages 1 and 2 and be assessed until they’re six. Exposure to lead paint at a young age could lead to learning disabilities, behavioral problems and permanent brain damage.
The county Department of Health visited Shubert, which houses a Uniondale pre-k program on the first floor and a high school skills training program on the second, and found paint chips with elevated levels of lead after being notified that a child tested positive for lead poisoning following a blood test. The paint chips were found at one of the front doors of the building, which previously housed an elementary school that closed in 2012, that has since been closed off.
Health officials said the lead paint has been “stabilized,” which could mean it was painted over or removed, and an abatement plan would be presented by the Baldwin school district in the near future. There is no further risk to children inside the school, health officials said.
Letters will be sent to parents of children attending the pre-k program, encouraging them to consult with a pediatrician to see if a blood test should be taken to check for lead.
“The danger of lead poisoning is real and can impact any building constructed before 1978,” County Legislator Debra Mulé said in a prepared statement. “The Baldwin School District’s swift and thorough response is commendable and should be a model for all to follow in future incidents.”
Cases of elevated levels of lead or lead poisoning in Nassau County are few and far in between — the last known case occurred in a daycare, health officials said. In 2018, 50 Nassau children tested positive for lead poisoning (though they could have been exposed to it elsewhere).