Prove your humanity

What was supposed to be a routine visit to the pediatrician with little Oren resulted in a finding that sent Katy Rank Lev and her husband, Corey, into a frenzy.

Their 1-year-old had lead in his blood.

Would it affect his growth? His brain development? And where could it be coming from?

Their Point Breeze home was built in 1900. Because of its age, they realized its paint could contain lead and that the contractors renovating it could be stirring up lead-laced dust.

They asked the workers to take precautions to control the dust, and they wiped down all the walls, top to bottom, with a detergent that’s supposed to minimize lead dust.

It wasn’t the first environmental threat they had to fight within their home.

Prior to moving in, they discovered high radon levels in some rooms. Radon exposure has been linked to lung cancer, so they spent about $850 to install a radon mitigation system.

Given all the steps they’ve taken to make their home safe for their three sons — 7-year-old Miles, 4-year-old Felix, and Oren, who is now 2 — Rank Lev is shocked to learn the boys could be exposed to the toxins in the other place they spend most of their time. School. One hundred and eighty days a year. Six to seven hours a day. The place they go to learn, socialize and grow.

Yet in Pennsylvania, there isn’t a single law requiring public school districts to test for environmental toxins like radon in the air, lead in the paint, or lead in the drinking water if they use a municipal water supply. As a result, many schools don’t regularly conduct testing, and some have never tested at all.

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This story comes from PublicSource, a nonprofit digital-first news organization that delivers public-service reporting and analysis in the Pittsburgh region.