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Blood Tests Turn Up More Portland Cases Of Elevated Lead


Jeff Strang of the Multnomah County Health Department draws blood from ACCESS Academy 8th grader Maura Kelley to test for lead.

Jeff Strang of the Multnomah County Health Department draws blood from ACCESS Academy 8th grader Maura Kelley to test for lead.

Jonathan House

Editor’s Note: This story has been revised to reflect updated information from Portland Public Schools about the number of people found with elevated lead levels in their blood. The original number indicated how many people had detectable lead levels in their blood; the revised number is the school district’s count of people tested who had elevated levels of lead in their blood.


UPDATED (Aug. 5, 2016) More Portland students and school employees have tested high for lead in their blood, according to a Portland Public Schools update.

Clinics and home tests turned up elevated lead levels in five kids and two adults out of 628 people tested in recent weeks.

That’s more than the two kids who tested high out of 519 tests at Portland schools in June.

Multnomah County health officials have been made aware of the seven cases, but aren’t investigating — yet. The typical process is for children and adults who showed elevated levels in the screenings — “capillary” tests — are referred to doctors for further testing. County officials say that about half the time, capillary tests turn out to be “false positives,” after people undergo the additional tests.

The two children who tested high in the initial screens in June at Rose City Park School were later confirmed to be high. Health officials say those two children weren’t poisoned at school. 

Children lined up with their parents to get tested for lead exposure, outside Rose City Park School, June 6 2016.

Children lined up with their parents to get tested for lead exposure, outside Rose City Park School, June 6 2016.

Rob Manning/OPB

Multnomah County intends to investigate the lead sources for any of the seven recent cases, should they be confirmed high in a subsequent blood draw.

Portland Public Schools officials say they’ve finished initial testing of school drinking water. Some water fixtures that tested particularly high will be tested again.

The district intends to have signs over sinks that warn of “potential contamination,” and is hiring a mechanical contractor to turn off water in hallway drinking fountains. The district plans to have water dispensers in place when school resumes.

The district is still testing water in school kitchens.

PPS has also started mitigating lead paint, with work at four schools in North and Northeast Portland: Alameda, Applegate, Beach and Chief Joseph.

Portland Public has said it intends to test at more school facilities with a focus on the youngest children, as well as on Ockley Green — which is opening this school year as a middle school.

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