Fort Worth, Texas,
15:31 PM

Lead in the water of FWISD: What you need to know

Doc Smitty addresses the issues, concerns from parents

Parents have plenty to worry about these days. The water at their child’s school shouldn’t be another thing to add to the list.

Fort Worth ISD tested nearly 1,500 samples of water across 116 campuses. Thus far, results have shown elevated levels of lead from 28 schools, most of which were tied to problematic water fountains (generally 1-2 per school).

The ISD has taken those water fountains out and flushing the water lines have already resulted in decreased lead levels to below the recommended EPA action levels in those affected schools.

Recent news about lead exposure in Flint, Mich. has appropriately heightened awareness about lead. However, it’s important to note that this situation is very different. In Flint, the central water was the source of lead, which caused prolonged exposure and significantly increased the risk of toxicity. Because the number of elevated sites of lead at each Fort Worth ISD campus was low, the likelihood of a buildup of lead over time is highly unlikely.

While the attention right now is on schools, the primary source of lead exposure in the United States is not from water, but more often is from lead dust and soil from deteriorated lead-based paint homes built before 1978.

Children at the highest risk for increased blood levels from water are infants and children under 6 years of age. The risk to an individual school aged child is considered low because they would have to drink water repeatedly from a contaminated drinking fountain over an extended period of time to achieve a clinically significant blood level.

Lead toxicity in children results from exposure to lead over a long period of time. Symptoms of lead intoxication (high blood lead levels) might include:

  • Vomiting
  • Anorexia
  • Abdominal pain
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy
  • Headaches
  • Convulsions

While it’s easy for me to tell parents the risk of toxicity in the students of Fort Worth ISD is low, I understand you might be concerned about your young student. If you have concerns about your child, it’s important to talk to your pediatrician.

About the author

Justin Smith is a pediatrician and the Medical Advisor for Digital Health for Cook Children's in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has an active community on both Facebook and Twitter as @TheDocSmitty and writes weekly for Cook Children's His interest in communications started when he realized that his parents were relying more on the internet for medical information. He believes that strategic use of social media and technology by pediatricians to connect with families can deepen their relationship and provide a new level of convenience for both of their busy lifestyles. Dr. Smith’s innovative pediatric clinic, a pediatric clinic “designed by you,” is set to open in Trophy Club in the fall of 2016.


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